Jacob G. Hornberger – February 6, 2018
Amidst all the furor over whether Donald Trump is a racist and whether he did in fact describe Haiti and African countries as “s*** holes,” the real point is one that hardly anyone wants to face, including Trump’s critics who continue to support immigration controls on Haiti and Africa to ensure that not too many of their citizens come to the United States. The real point is this: The ongoing, decades-long U.S. immigration crisis, chaos, and controversy are rooted in immigration controls. As long as immigration controls remain in place, so will the crisis, chaos, and controversy.
There is no conceivable immigration plan that will ever work. Not one. Bring together all the immigration experts into one room. Give them access to the best computers that have ever been built. They will still not be able to come up with a “comprehensive immigration reform plan” that will work. Whatever plan they recommend and adopt will inevitably result in crisis, chaos, and circuses, just like the ones we are seeing today. Even worse, whatever plan those experts come up with will inevitably bring about even more destruction of liberty and privacy.
That should make everyone pause. If a particular government program — in this case, immigration controls — cannot conceivably, in any form or fashion, be made to work, then why spend any time, energy, or money trying to make it work? Why support such a system when it cannot work? Why continue acting like it can be made to work if someone would just come up with a workable immigration plan when, in fact, that’s impossible?
There is a simple reason why immigration controls don’t work and cannot work, no matter what plan is adopted, and why immigration controls produce crises and chaos. Immigration controls are based on the socialist concept of central planning.
What is central planning? It is when a government board, commission, or legislature plans and directs, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, peaceful economic activity.
The opposite of central planning is a free market. That’s when people, not government officials, plan and direct their own economic activity without any government interference. That’s why it’s called a “free” market — because economic activities are free of government control or interference.
In a free market, people are free to cross borders without governmental interference. The best example of this phenomenon is the freedom of people within the United States to cross state borders without state interference. Every day, countless people cross state borders for one reason or another. Some of them are moving to another state, some are just visiting, and some of them are going shopping. Some of them are also planning to commit crimes. Whatever the reason for crossing state borders, no state has checkpoints at its borders.
Consequently, there is no domestic immigration crisis. That’s because the free market works. It harmonizes people’s interests. The free market — i.e., open borders — is also consistent with the principles of individual freedom, liberty of contract, private property, freedom of trade, and economic liberty.
Suppose each state suddenly was permitted to control the movement of people into the state. Immediately, there would be state checkpoints at all the regular crossing points and at the airports. California, which has generous welfare benefits, would restrict people from coming into the state to get on welfare. Virginia would protect state jobs by prohibiting Marylanders from coming into the state to work. Texas would keep New Yorkers out to protect Texas culture. To lower its trade deficit with Florida, North Dakota would prevent people from bringing Florida oranges into the state.
Whatever, one thing is beyond dispute: If the states were empowered to protect their borders, there would be a massive series of immigration crises and chaos all across the country and ever-increasing destruction of liberty and privacy — and all because of state immigration controls.
There is no way that central planning — or any other variation of socialism — can work at any level of government. All that central planning does is produce what Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.” The central planner can never come up with the right plan, the plan that will harmonize people’s interests, the plan that will coordinate supply and demand, especially in complex labor markets such as those in the United States. Any immigration plan is going to entail arbitrary assignments of quotas to different countries, as well as qualifications for entry.
No immigration central planner, no matter how well equipped he might be with the latest and fastest computer, can possibly come up with the right number of people from each country or the right qualifications of such people. That’s because people’s valuations, including those of both employers and consumers, and market conditions are changing every minute of the day. That’s why freedom and free markets work — because they enable people to quickly change and adjust their plans in response to prices and other market signals. The central planner, possessing what Friedrich Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” is incapable of doing that. That’s why the Soviet Union, whose entire system was based on central planning, was always in a state of perpetual crisis and chaos.
And so it should surprise no one that we have had an immigration crisis that has gone on continuously for decades. Every year, throughout the crisis, critics have cried, “We need a comprehensive immigration reform plan, one that will finally, once and for all, resolve the immigration crisis.”
What they are missing is that no such plan exists. It’s all a pipedream, one that continues to hold that socialism can be made to work. It’s not going to happen. No matter what plan is adopted, no matter what is done to reinforce immigration controls, the result will be the same: crisis and chaos. And the continued destruction of liberty and privacy. And the heated, circus-like controversies, like over who is a racist and who isn’t.
There is one — and only one — thing that works: freedom and free markets. That necessarily means the right of people to cross borders freely and without governmental interference, just like we have with state borders. Open borders would immediately bring an end to the immigration crisis, chaos, and circuses. They would also be a giant step toward the restoration of a free-market system to our land as well as the restoration of moral, ethical, and religious principles regarding people’s relationships with others.
This article was originally published at FFF.org. Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.