Restricting Immigration Reduces Freedom

by Don Boudreaux on November 12, 2005

in The Economy

I write a twice monthly column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  Several weeks ago I wrote this one arguing that Americans have nothing to fear economically from open immigration.

Boy, did this column provoke a cybercart-load of hostile e-mail!  I’m called an "ignoramous"; a "fool"; a "jerk"; an "asshole"; a "shithead"; and my favorite, a "know nothing knit witted globalist."

Well, well.  In my next column I pointed out merely what I take to be an obvious point: if you support restrictions on immigration because you believe (rightly or wrongly) that such restrictions promote domestic economic prosperity or strengthen traditional domestic culture, then you are willing to trade off freedom for economic or cultural gains.

Now I can respect (tho’ disagree with) anyone who admits this fact — who admits "Yes, at the margin I value freedom less than I value the economic and cultural gains that I believe will come from restricing immigration."  But the e-responses that my more recent column have brought are not of this ilk.

Six angry readers have written to me insisting that they are unsurpassed friends of liberty, that they would never, ever, ever remotely think of sacrificing liberty for anything as pedestrian as mere economic benefit — BUT immigration is different.  Immigration, you see, is an affront to freedom; therefore, immigration restrictions happily promote both freedom and economic growth.

One of these e-correspondents admitted that immigration restrictions limit liberty, but (in her view) only the liberty of foreigners.

I have no idea what these e-correspondents are talking about.

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