It turns out that even Murray Rothbard turned against open borders before he died, as evidenced by this essay published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies in the fateful year of 1994, the year NAFTA went live.
On the recent edition of Mises Weekends, Jeff Deist interviews Dr. Jörg Guido Hülsmann. The topic is “Nation, State, and Borders.” It is a worthwhile interview. Fair warning: Hülsmann offers views similar to those of Hans Hoppe on these matters. Quite importantly, he makes the distinction of nation vs. state. It is a distinction worth internalizing for those who want to consider the application of libertarian theory in this world populated by humans.
From the interview, I learned of an essay written by Murray Rothbard in 1994, entitled Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State. As is often the case, when I discover something of Rothbard’s I find myself torn between excitement and depression: excitement because I have somehow worked my way to a conclusion similar to his, and depression because all I have done is somehow worked my way to a conclusion similar to his.
It’s a very interesting essay, all the more so due to it being almost entirely unread in libertarian circles. To his credit, Rothbard, despite his dedication to praxeology, admits that his reason has been demonstrated to be wrong on the basis of events:
The “nation”, of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country”. He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area….
The question of open borders, or free immigration, has become an accelerating problem for classical liberals. This is first, because the welfare state increasingly subsidizes immigrants to enter and receive permanent assistance, and second, because cultural boundaries have become increasingly swamped. I began to rethink my views on immigration when, as the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the cultures and languages of these peoples.
Previously it had been easy to dismiss as unrealistic Jean Raspail’s anti-immigration novel The Camp of the Saints, in which virtually the entire population of India decides to move, in small boats, into France, and the French, infected by liberal ideology, cannot summon the will to prevent economic and cultural national destruction. As culture and welfare-state problems have intensified, it became impossible to dismiss Raspail’s concerns any longer.
It is even less easy to dismiss in light of the 61-million strong invasion of the USA and the recent European migrant crisis. But it was always an observably stupid dismissal in the first place, a logically fallacious appeal to subjective incredulity.
It’s very satisfying to not only be confident that I was correct to reject the open borders position – although I did so on purely logical grounds – but that one of the great libertarian thinkers eventually came around on the very important issue as well, although I am rather less certain that the same can be said of Mises. It increasingly appears that National Libertarianism, as I describe it, is the only viable libertarianism.