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Since all sides are seeking their own economic benefit, according to what they value most, they are all justified in either their support or opposition [of immigration expansion].

Immigration Policy and Private Property

Posted by Damien on April 29, 2011 at 7:14 pm

In an article titled, “The Politics of Immigration and National Integration,” Thomas Janoski and Fengjuan Wang declare that due to recent trends, such as the exit of the baby boomers from the work force, economic hardships, and globalization, the politics of immigration is moving from being a background issue for most people to an “explosive issue” that “will be a cauldron of emotion and wills for the next half century.” (630) They also set out to “provide a complex explanation of immigration and naturalization laws” that explains the both the points of view of sender and receiver nations, as well as the support and opposition towards immigration that has almost always crossed party lines. (653) However, it is more likely that universal principles that apply to all human action, immigration / emigration are not exceptions, will be able to bring further clarity to these theories and will also lead to an ethical understanding of how best to address the issue of immigration. The foundation of true liberty is private property, that stems from the right of self-ownership, and it is also the ethical response to immigration and even though this theory will be shown to not be complex in nature, the required paradigm shift from government’s desire to control and people’s dependence on government control will be quite difficult to accomplish.

Janoski and Wang describe how both support and opposition to immigration, in the receiving country, is bi-partisan and bridges interest groups that are normally at odds. Supporters of expanded immigration policy has usually been made up of “largely Democratic ‘cosmopolitans’ who wanted an expansion of citizenship,” that would likely lead to an expanded voter base; and also, “’free market expansionists’ who were more interested in easing labor shortages.” (631) The opposition has been traditionally made up of labor and welfare state advocates, both groups tend to be largely Democratic, who seek to restrict immigration in order to protect the jobs and benefits of existing citizens against competition from immigrants who are usually eligible and possess the appropriate skills to compete with those most dependent on these policies. The other traditional opposition group has been cultural conservatives who wish to preserve the existing culture and limit the influence of “outsiders” on policy or society as a whole. Janoski and Wang then describe four types of politics that decide immigration policy in a receiving country based on how diffuse the costs and/or benefits are: interest group politics, clientelist politics, entrepreneurial politics, and majoritarian politics. However, the overarching theory of cost-benefit analysis is sufficient to provide the causal factors for both support and opposition to immigration. Those who support immigration seek to expand immigration in order to expand their political or member base; lower labor costs; or perceive it is as a means to some other subjective goal. Opposition wishes to protect the status quo or existing citizens, or they also see further expansion of immigration as a threat to their subjective goals. Immigrants themselves perceive that exchanging their current situation for a situation in which they are pressured to assimilate and forced to interact with foreign cultures and people will beneficial in achieving their individual goals. Sending nations support emigration so long as the perceive potential gain from remittances or the return of a more experienced work force; and they oppose emigration when it erodes their revenue base or is subversive in nature.

Since all sides are seeking their own economic benefit, according to what they value most, they are all justified in either their support or opposition. The problem then becomes how can there be an overarching policy that addresses all of their just concerns? The answer is you can’t and if you try you will be arbitrarily choosing winners and losers in the debate and coercing one side to “accept” the views of another group. The most ethical response then is to not have a centralized or overarching policy but many policies based on the preferences of individuals or ideologically homogenous communities and private property as explained by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in, “Democracy—The God that Failed:”

“All land is privately owned, including streets, rivers, airports, harbors, and so on. With respect to some pieces of land, the property title may be unrestricted; that is, the owner is permitted to do with his property whatever he pleases as long as he does not physically damage the property owned by others. With respect to to other territories, the property title may be more or less severely restricted. As is currently the case in some housing developments, the owner may be bound by contractual limitations on what he can do with his property (voluntary zoning), which might include residential versus commercial use, no buildings more than four stories high, [or even as far as] no sale to Jews, Germans, Catholics, homosexuals, Haitians, families with or without children, or smokers for example.

Clearly, under this scenario no such thing as freedom of immigration exists. Rather, many independent private property owners have the freedom to admit or exclude others from their own property in accordance with their own unrestricted or restricted property titles.” (2007, 139)

The end result would be that all groups could pursue their economic interests and values simultaneously and while some communities may have restrictive limitations that are repulsive to the mainstream, the result will be self-segregation of people who hold those repulsive views into their own communities. Also, those communities that have the most successful immigration policies will be imitated by other communities seeking prosperity until the majority of communities strike the most optimal balance in immigration policy.

Works Cited:

Janoski, Thomas A. & Wang, Fengjuan. (2005). Regimes and Contention. In T.A. Janoski, A.M. Hicks, & M.A. Schwartz (Eds.), Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Societies, and Globalization (630-654). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. (2007). Democracy—The God that Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

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  • On September 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm Leviticus Moon said

    While you give no clear theory on your personal views, it seems that you make strong reference to the belief that human beings will make the the logical choice in a given situation. Contrarily, most historical examples of attempted integration or culture clash have resulted in either eradication of one of the opposing parties or forced segregation. The United States is probably the best example of this practice. Individuals often want the opposite of what they have learned to accept as the norm. So when they are put in situations where they have to reach across socio-economic and racial lines as part of what they do there is a tendency to prefer to seek out situations where individuals of another race or socio-economic status are not going to be around.


    • On September 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm Damien said

      Human beings make the “rational” choice. In other words, they choose action that they perceive will bring them the greatest psychic gain. Whether they correctly perceive the “logical” consequences of their actions is a matter of human fallibility.

      Your statement, “Individuals often want the opposite of what they have learned to accept as the norm,” borders on contradictory. If they wanted the opposite then that means they do not accept it. I’m also not sure where you were trying to go with this statement. Is ethnic and cultural diversity the norm that they oppose? Because the rest of your comment seems to imply that it is not.

      I’m not sure the propensity towards violence or forced segregation is as high as you claim in western civilization, particularly the United States. Most of the West seems to have recognized the potential benefits of diversity, so long as it within a “common ground” such as the legal order. The tendency to prefer homogeneity of ethnicity and culture is based on the initial increase in transaction costs that will lower the prosperity, inconvenience, or even cause some trauma to the community that is trying to integrate a new culture. These initial costs, if not weighed against potential future benefits, have often led to the attempted purging of outside cultures in order to maintain the status quo. This is due to a lack of education on the benefits experienced by communities who do make the effort to integrate diversity. However, forced integration will have much worse consequences than forced segregation. As you have noted, when the community does not accept that they will benefit from the integration it leads to violence and the attempt to “eradicate” or resegregate. With forced segregation, while it is not optimal, it is much less likely to lead to violence and as the differing parties learn more about each other on their own time they will most likely see the benefits of a cooperative relationship and probably eventual integration to some degree.


  • On September 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm Demosthenes said

    In reading your take on immigration policy, I am surprised by your suggestions regarding self-segregation. The thought that a self-contained community that excludes anyone based on race, class,immigration status, etc., in this increasingly global society is, in my opinion, unrealistic. The very notion draws a parallel to the Church of Satan’s Pentagonal Revisionism, a goal which states the need for “The opportunity for anyone to live within a total environment of their choice, with mandatory adherence to the aesthetic and behavioral standards of same — “Privately owned, operated and controlled environments as an alternative to homogenized and polyglot ones. The freedom to insularize oneself within a social milieu of personal well-being. An opportunity to feel, see, and hear that which is most aesthetically pleasing, without interference from those who would pollute or detract from that option” (LaVey, 1988). While a suitable option for some, others will certainly take issue with the concept, and work to effect its end. I believe that since the idea of segregation will be met with great hostility and complication, the most productive way forward is a more open immigration policy that recognizes the inevitability of a global society.


    • On September 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm Damien said

      I would agree that the self-contained community is “unrealistic” in the sense that it would most likely fail. This further proves that natural incentives exist to influence the behavior of those around us without aggressive coercion due to interdependence. A community who ostracized enough people would itself become ostracized and find itself unable to rise above a certain level of prosperity or even find itself having difficulty to even survive. Eventually, many of its members would adopt more acceptable beliefs and conform to the degree necessary to integrate into a more successful society. The remaining “purists” would accept their meager existence in order to maintain their counter-productive belief system.

      On the other hand, some homogeneity in culture and behavior is beneficial to a community. Accepted norms, shared traditions, mutual understandings, similar use of language, shared belief in a common legal order, etc. all leads to lower transaction costs in the interactions between individuals. As these become more diverse more costs (money, time, psychic)are accrued trying to understand each other and come to terms that satisfy both parties.

      Finding the balance between ostracizing individuals for arbitrary reasons and still maintaining some homogeneity of culture can not be established by any “logical” lines in the sand; instead, the balance must be found through social evolution, ie “trial and error” and imitation of successful communities.


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