What does a libertarian think about immigration? It's not an easy question. I'll try to answer it on my FBN show this week (Thursday @ 9pm ET). The textbook response -- at least, according to Harvard economist Jeff Miron's encyclopedic Libertarianism from A to Z -- is that "open borders is the best immigration policy".
I get that. We libertarians believe in free trade, so that means trade in labor too.
But as I explain in my syndicated column this week, there are good arguments against an open border policy. Today, we have to worry about terrorists. Also, our welfare state invites freeloading.
So, I turned to the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley and the Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald. I respect both, and yet they take opposite sides of the argument:
"The case for open borders is a case for letting the law of supply and demand, the free market, determine the level of immigration," Riley said. "Right now, that determination is being made by politicians and public policy makers. ... And like all exercises in Soviet-style central planning, it's been a complete disaster. We have thriving markets in document fraud ... and 12 million-plus illegal aliens. ... (W)e would do better to move to a system that allowed the free market to determine the level of immigration. And that's the case for open borders." Riley proposes a guest-worker program. "That is the way to reduce illegal immigration."
Heather MacDonald retorts: "A country is not a firm. And it is absolutely the prerogative of a nation and its people to decide its immigration policy. ... We should have an immigration policy that accentuates our natural economic advantage in the 21st century, which is as a high-tech, high-science economy. ... (T)he overwhelming number of immigrants that are coming in largely illegally are extremely low skilled." MacDonald worries that "we're facing, for the first time in this country's history ... the first decrease in national literacy and numeracy ... . "
She wants to copy Australia 's and Canada 's policy: "high skills, English language and education. ... We should be looking out for our own economic self-interest." Riley disagreed with MacDonald's claim that Mexican immigrants don't fit America 's modern economy.
"(T)oday's immigrants coming here are not different in terms of their behavior patterns, in terms of their assimilation levels. They are simply newer."
Full column here.