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Immigration Policy and Private Property


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.

Filed under Immigration, Politics
Apr 29, 2011