The current debate regarding Trump’s proposed border wall and border control, in general, is inherently flawed because it asks the wrong question: will a wall work? The appropriate question is not whether border walls work or not, but whether border walls, and by extension border control, is compatible with the core principles of liberty; namely freedom of association, private property, and freedom of movement, because the principles of (dangerous?) freedom trump (peaceful?) utility every single damn time.
Let’s start by looking at border control and immigration from a libertarian political perspective.
The crux of libertarian legal theory is that victimless “crimes” are not crimes to start with and that innocent people’s freedom may not be curbed based on the arbitrary dictates of government. I say arbitrary because any and all legislation which serves to criminalize actions that don’t have any victims are illegitimate. Person A, who crosses a line in the ground in order to get to the private property of Person B via public “property” does not cause anybody’s property any harm whatsoever, and imposing penalties for such an action is asinine at best. The fact that there are criminals among immigrants is also no justification for limiting the innocent among immigrants’ freedom, as it entails restriction of their freedom based on actions they did not commit themselves. The law is not supposed to impose blanket restrictions on certain actions based on the criminal conduct of a minority or even a majority. It sounds dangerous from a consequentialist perspective, and it might possibly be, but that is exactly where Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin came from when they both chose dangerous freedom over peaceful security.
A seemingly legitimate argument against open borders is the “I pay my taxes, so I should have a say over who enters my government’s jurisdiction.” But this is a very short-sighted argument because anyone can contribute to the coffers of any government at any moment. If I cross a border and purchase a product on which a sales tax is levied, I just contributed tax monies to that government. The typical counterargument aired at this point is that income taxes are different than other taxes, but the very nature of taxes refutes this point. A tax is a reduction of purchasing power, and the form that a specific tax takes does not change the inherent nature of a tax. The size of the tax is also irrelevant, as those who pay more taxes simply cannot demand a bigger say in government policy, for this is anathema to the principle of formal equality. I also once fell for this type of Hoppean tripe until I realized that it is not only an argument that is incompatible with libertarianism, but also one that opens the floodgates for the state to control peoples’ lives to a great extent. If we start using the “I pay, so I may dictate (arbitrary) limitations on freedom” argument, where do we stop? It simply gives politicians the space to extend statist measures.
Another amusing case made against open borders is that opponents of the aforementioned usually say that they don’t have a problem with immigrants as long as they enter a nation legally. This is where the concept of arbitrariness rears its head again. “Legal” immigration vs “illegal” immigration is an arbitrary distinction because of the basic fact that illegally crossing a border does not do anyone harm by default, so there is no reason for the state to intervene in such an instance and limit whole swathes of peoples’ freedom based on what might happen or how criminals might abuse open borders. Criminals, by definition, abuse their own freedom, and that is never a reason to limit other people’s freedom because of the simple logic behind not interfering in people’s actions based on actual crimes they themselves did not even commit.
Let us now take an economic perspective on border control.
We, as humans, are capital in and of ourselves in that we each have a unique set of abilities that can be used to produce wealth. Being libertarians, we support free trade. By logical extension, this should include the free and unimpeded flow of human capital as well. This is where I get extremely annoyed by hypocritical “capitalists” like Charlie Kirk and his ilk at Turning Point USA, who are apparently in awe of free markets right up until the point where they have to apply the very principles they themselves espouse to human capital. Border control on human capital is an immensely arbitrary regulation, as it implies that the state has some sort of right to control the flow of certain forms of capital by default. Might I add that being in favor of minarchism whilst simultaneously arguing in favor of a border wall makes you a hypocrite. Trust me, I was also once there. A “closed economy” perspective is anathema to the concept of free markets. Being in favor of free markets but only within a nationalistic context is a protectionist viewpoint that is not compatible with the concept of freedom. Free markets cannot, by definition, exist in a closed sphere, for then they aren’t free. The only sphere in which a free market can actually exist and live up to its name is in a global context.
Make no mistake, it is not only “capitalists” on the right who make such protectionist arguments, but also “progressives” on the left. Kyle Kulinski has stated on his show that he’s a moderate on immigration because he believes that one cannot have a welfare state as well as large-scale immigration. What proponents of such an argument fail to realize is that this is inherently not an argument against immigration, but an argument against the existence of the welfare state, for if government programs and policies necessitate a limitation of individuals’ autonomy to engage in peaceful conduct, then it is the state who is in the wrong and the individual who should receive the benefit of the doubt. And then we get to Hillary fucking Clinton, who recently aired the absolutely majestically stupid view that Europe should start curbing immigration in order to prevent the rise of right-wing neo-fascist groups. Hillary fails to recognize the actual problem: the government’s excessive power. If neo-fascist groups are able to attain so much power over people via the mechanisms of the state, then again it is the state that is in the wrong because it has way too much power in the first place that can be abused by nefarious people. It is not the immigrants and refugees whose freedom we must limit, but rather the state’s power.
Liberty is universal, for if it was a jurisdictionally-bound concept it would defeat its own foundation: natural rights. The state is not the grantor of (negative) rights because it would imply that, without the state, we as individuals do not amount to crap. All humans have negative rights simply because they are living, breathing, and autonomous creatures. No government has the right to interfere with these rights in the name of the greater good, regardless of whether those whose freedom the state wants to curb are subjects of it or not.