Hoppe-ing Mad

by Don Boudreaux on September 25, 2004

in Myths and Fallacies

Among the strangest and most convoluted arguments I’ve ever encountered is Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s allegedly free-market case for restricting immigration. Here’s his latest.

No single blog entry can do justice to this issue, so I’ll content myself with making two points. Before doing so, let me confess to being a proponent of open borders of the sort that the United States had until the 1880s (when racist Chinese-exclusion statutes were enacted).

First, if it were empirically true that the bulk of immigrants suck on the tit of the welfare state, then the solution most consistent with liberty is to permit a foreigner to enter on condition that he or she not be eligible for government welfare payments.

But I doubt very seriously that immigrants live at taxpayers’ expense. Julian Simon’s research (admittedly now somewhat dated) finds that immigrants are net tax payers. The same is true of George Borjas, here, who is less enthusiastic about immigration than was Simon.

Relatedly, if the concern with immigration were truly that too many immigrants live as welfare recipients, then immigration regulations would not focus, as they do, on forcibly keeping immigrants out of the labor force. (See my earlier post.)

Second, and much more importantly, by lamenting the fact that many immigrants are low-skilled, Hoppe seems to be ignorant of the principle of comparative advantage. When a low-skilled immigrant works, he produces net value – the economy becomes more productive. His employer is better off, he is better off, and consumers are better off. Nothing whatsoever in economic theory suggests that only “well-heeled, highly value-productive immigrants” enhance economic progress.

A few years ago I wrote these two columns in response to Hoppe’s arguments, first here, then here. And Tom Palmer has a wonderful response to Hoppe’s latest confused musings on immigration.
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Of course, perhaps I am, as Hoppe would assert, “arrested in this phase of mental development.” But at least I’m aware of the principle of comparative advantage.

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