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Should Libertarians support open borders?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/15/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 763 times Debate No: 104456
Debate Rounds (5)
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This debate should be accepted by self identified Libertarians ONLY. I will be arguing against the notion that Libertarians should support open borders, and my opponent will be arguing that libertarians in fact should support open borders. Round 1 is for acceptance, 2 for opening statements, 3 and 4 for rebuttals and additional arguments, and 5 for closing arguments.


Debate Round No. 1


I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

Due to the events of the past several years, including the escalation of the middle eastern/North African migrant crisis facing Europe, or illegal immigration into the United States, which in no small part gave fuel to the rise of Donald Trump, immigration has in many ways took hold as the important issue of our time. Since as libertarians we take pride in our ideas being consistent with human nature and reality, it is important that we have a proper understanding of this topic.
I claim little to no originality in my arguments, and draw much of my inspiration from 4 Libertarian thinkers: Lew Rockwell, Stefan Molyneux, Hans Hermann-Hoppe and Murray Rothbard.

It is often assumed that the correct libertarian position on immigration is open borders. At a first non-critical glance, this makes sense. The state is an illegitimate entity due to its claim of monopoly on violence and taxation, therefore any land it claims dominion over isn't legitimately owned property, and as such has no right to restrict access to said land. This seems logically consistent, however let us delve a bit deeper.
To do this, let's use an example that Lew Rockwell used in a 2015 article. Free speech is something commonly associated with libertarianism. After all, who doesn't oppose state restrictions on freedom of speech? But let me pose the question: as libertarians, is it really that we believe in freedom of speech In the abstract? Because that would imply that I can walk into your church yelling satanic propaganda, yell during a movie, yell racial epithets at you in your home etc. But Libertarianism does not hold any such thing to be true. That's because fundamentally libertarianism is about one thing and one thing only: property rights. Libertarianism does not mean you can do or say what you please, it means you can do what you want with your property and the property of those of whom you have the consent.

The same can be said for another idea commonly associated with libertarianism: freedom of movement. Again, libertarians do not believe in any such abstract principle. In a libertarian society, one could not simply set up camp anywhere he chooses without the permission of the property owner. Every square inch in this aforementioned society would be owned by private individuals, groups, or companies, and there would be no immigration problem per se. The "borders" would be as opened or closed as the property owners deemed fit.
But this is not the case we are currently presented with. With a state system, the issue of so called "public property" enters the equation.
With said public property there are 2 standard lines when it comes to its ownership: either that property is deemed to be unowned, or owned by the state. Generally speaking, the libertarian seems to accept that the second proposition is obviously incorrect because the state cannot truly Own anything legitimately, because public property is funded through taxation which is theft. However, equally incorrect is the notion that so called public property is unowned. To be unowned, there would have to be no first appropriator. But this is not the case.
So if public property is not owned by the state, and is also not unowned, then who is the proper owner? Libertarian theorist Hans Hermann-Hope proposes the answer: the taxpayer. If somebody steals money from you and uses that money to purchase a swimming pool, are you not the rightful owner of the swimming pool? Likewise, the only people with a true claim to public property are the taxpayers.
In a state run system, we have public property, or as they will be henceforth called "commons" forced upon us. Such a phenomena would not exist in a libertarian society because again, everything would be privately owned. As long as the state is in charge of border control it should act as the best stewards possible of the border. This may initially seem like a statist position, but by not doing anything about immigration the state is in fact doing something. Even for a libertarian, sometimes the worst thing the state can do is to not enforce the law. If my opponent disagrees with this, then surly he would accept that the police should not catch and imprison murderers and rapists because the state monopoly of these services is unjustified.

Another angle to look at this problem from is the idea that not all cultures are equally liberty-friendly. If the borders were to be open to all cultures, including those explicitly hostile to liberty then any hope of a libertarian society is lost. Is Europe more free because of the European Union's migration policy? Obviously not. So the lesser of two evils is to restrict immigration.
I am running out of time so I will consider that my opening argument, I look forward to my opponents response.


As a libertarian, I firmly believe in taking responsibility for our actions. As individuals and as a society, we cannot escape the consequences of our actions. The consequences of asserting your "authority" over others for the sake of your freedom can cause a domino effect which may require more and more assertive actions to maintain that so called authority. At what point do we realize that freedom can never truly be obtained if we're continuously required to fight for ours and other peoples "freedom"? When we as a society choose to take hostile military actions to subdue or destroy governments of other societies, we must realize those actions have consequences. People will be displaced, borders will need to be strengthened and the secondary consequences of the aforementioned effects may require more military action for the sake of our "protection". As a libertarian, I believe that if liberty is our goal, we must abandon those empirical policies and embrace freedom! If protection is our goal, then we will have to abandon any notions of liberty and embrace the realities of being an empirical society and we will reap what we sow!

There is something to be said about a society that clings to a supposed notion of economic freedom, meanwhile an undocumented immigrant can come into our country to find work and has the option of working "under the table" and working below the minimum wage. But those are not options that we as legitimate citizens of our country have. Are we going to continue to ignore the fact that the immigrant has more economic freedom than we do? We are swimming in the consequences of our protectionist economic policies that drowns our capabilities to be competitive workers. Higher wages means higher prices, which gives the immigrant an advantage over domestic workers because he/she is willing to work for less.

I would like to thank my opponent for allowing me to make my case and I wish him/her good luck!
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by roark555 3 years ago
how so?
Posted by PointyDelta 3 years ago
xenophobia is inherently authoritarian you stupid boy
Posted by The-Voice-of-Truth 3 years ago
Sorry if that seems a little unintelligible; I am quite tired and was unable to clearly articualte whatever it was I intended to say.
Posted by The-Voice-of-Truth 3 years ago
The issue with this is that no two libertarians are the same, and there isn't an actual "true libertarian" label to base any belief off of; so, then, to say that X (being a blanket term) ought to Y (something specific) is to say that there is a true form of X, when there is not.
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