Hans-Hermann Hoppe is
known for his skepticism of open borders. He thinks that open borders
are inconsistent with libertarian principals. Therefore, real
libertarians have to oppose this policy, at least as long as the
state exists. I think Hoppe is mistaken on the issue. His arguments
seem deeply confused and I am going to show why. As he claims to be a libertarian and the state is basically illiberal, then in order to make a supporting statement of a very intrusive state policy like immigration, his argumentation just has to be very messy. There is no real
case for the support of this policy. To show exactly how this works,
let us look at two of his articles on immigration.

Recently,
LewRockwell.com re-published two of such articles. The first was
entitles “Free Immigration is Forced Integration” and the second
“Immigration and Libertarianism”. Let us start with the first,
“Free Immigration is Forced Integration”.

In this articles
Hoppe tries to make essentially one argument. The argument is that
“free” immigration violates the property rights of the locals and
can therefore not be libertarian. To get to this conclusion, Hoppe
needs to distract the reader with a number of argumentative tricks to
make it look like, his conclusion follows from his premises.

Let us go through
the article systematically. The article is divided into 7 parts. He
starts by summarizing what he describes as “the classical argument
for free immigration”. I am not sure if there is such a thing as
“the classical argument”. There are definitely a number of
different arguments in favour of open borders. Hoppe, in a side note
even concedes this in the second part of the article. But he makes it
incorrectly look like this is another route to dispute the open
border claim by calling it a “first shortcoming” of the free
immigration argument. No, what Hoppe calls “the classic argument”
for free immigration, is merely the economic argument for it. But
fair enough, it is an important argument and Hoppe, as far as I can
tell summarizes it correctly. He also explicitly agrees with the idea
that free immigration does not cause economic problems. He
understands correctly that this would be an argument against free
markets in general.

In the second part
of the article, he then goes on to say that trying to criticise open
borders by pointing out negative effects of the welfare state is also
not persuasive. These are problems of the welfare state and not of
open borders in and of itself. I think this is correct. If the
welfare state or for that matter any other state policy leads to
negative effects of freeing up markets, then libertarians should
attack these policies and not the freeing up of markets. So far,
Hoppe seems to make the case in favour of open borders. One thing that
is important to note until this point is, how he uses the word
‘free’. The word ‘free’ is used in the libertarian sense of “free
from constrains”.

Now, from the third
part of the article, Hoppe starts making the libertarian case against
free immigration. His argument is that in an anarcho-capitalist
society, everything worth owning is already owned. Therefore, there
cannot be freedom of immigration. So the property prevents the
freedom. Wait a minute, what? Why is property in contradiction with
freedom? This is a strange argument coming from the founder of The Property
and Freedom Society
. But maybe they serve free alcohol there? But
seriously, isn’t the whole point of libertarianism that property and
liberty are closely linked with each other? How can Hoppe make the
argument that since we have property, there cannot be freedom. That
sounds very confused to me. It should be clear that Hoppe at this
point has started to use the word freedom in a non libertarian way,
as in ‘free of charge’. He argues that we have property, therefore
immigration cannot be free of costs. In this sense of the word
however, libertarianism is also in contradiction with free markets. A
free market would be a market in which everyone can help themselves
to everything they like, free of charge. That clearly is not
libertarian. That is more a socialist way of using the word freedom.
Libertarians explicitly stress that their idea of freedom is to be
free from proactive impositions from others. Even more remarkable is
that Hoppe just a few sentences earlier has used the word in exactly
this libertarian meaning. And now he just changes the meaning of
“free” without even telling the reader about it. One wonders why?
Is he not smart enough to realise that he is using the word with the
different meaning, or is he speculating that his audience won’t be? I
don’t know the answer, but I know that at least one of the two needs
to be true.

So let me make
clear, what a libertarian like myself means when talking about “free
immigration”, or for that matter immigration. Immigration is a
collectivist term. It means the movement of people over some form of
collectivist borders. These can be cultural borders or state borders.
As such it is not always completely clear when to call the long term
reallocation of a person to another location immigration and when he
is just moving house. Simply moving house from Charles Street a few
miles down the road to Summer Lane is usually not called immigration.

In today’s statist
world, immigration is usually understood to mean the long term
reallocation of a person from one side of a state border to another.
Free immigration therefore means that people who would like to make
such a move are free from not interpersonal liberty maximising
compatible restrains. The biggest of such restrains right now is
state immigration controls. These come in the form of state issued
passport controls at state borders and visa licensing systems that
allow the state to control who is on its territory for how long and
what reason.

I am not trying to
argue about words. If Hoppe has a problem sticking to a consistent
meaning of a word let us just argue about the meaning itself. Can we
agree that the state is violating people’s liberty with these types
of policies or not? And can we therefore agree that these policies
have to go unconditionally or not? Unfortunately, Hoppe seems to
really believe that state immigration controls, to some degree are
not in violation of liberty. However, as I argue above, the attack on
open borders via redefining the word ‘free’ can hardly be taken
seriously. So what other arguments does Hoppe have?

Although, not so
fast. At first he seems to continue the article, explicitly rejecting
state immigration controls as unnatural in part four. However,
immediately after he has done so, he starts to develop a new way of
arguing that current immigration is violating the liberty of people.
Hoppe says that since we have a state, that state then employs
policies like building roads that are not market results. This
distorted market will also have a distorting effect on immigration.
And this is what he calls forced integration, because we now have
more roads than we would otherwise have and therefore the locals have
to put up with more immigrants than they would normally get.

This is a really odd
argument in many ways. To start with, he seems to contradict himself.
In part two of the article, he argued that trying to argue against
immigration with the welfare state would not be convincing, as this
is a problem of the welfare state, which will have to go. But now he
is applying the logic that he himself rejected earlier, to do just
that. If immigration leads to problems with other state policies than
libertarians need to argue against these policies instead of making
themselves advocates of more statism.

But his argument is
also not economically correct. Yes, the state is distorting the
economy. But it is hard to tell what the exact market result would
have been. How does Hoppe know, that we now have more streets then we
would otherwise have? If we could figure that out without the market,
then we would have a pretty good argument in favour of central
planning. Maybe the opposite is the case. Maybe now, we have less
roads than we would otherwise have. In that case the same argument
would lead to the opposite conclusion of forced exclusion. As a
scholar of Austrian economics, he should know that?

Next he argues that
in today’s world the government and not the market is fully in charge
of admitting people. That however, seems simply wrong. Behind the
state borders, especially domestic property is still mostly owned
privately. So despite the fact that we have state borders, the control
over who comes into the country is still to a large degree in the
hands of the market of that country. Without anyone renting out or
selling a property to the immigrant, the immigrant still has a
problem. But there does not seem to be a shortage of people doing
that and I cannot see why there would be a shortage without border
controls. Quite to the contrary, with the freeing up of markets it is
reasonable to assume that accommodation could become cheaper as
productivity increases.

Hoppe however argues
that immigration controls lead to forced integration and forced
exclusion. I can see how immigration controls are forceful
exclusions. If a property owner on the inside of the fence would like
to invite someone, the government can prevent this. That is why it is
not libertarian. I find it harder to see a case of forceful
integration. If the government lets someone through the state border,
the people inside the fence can still say no to the person. And if
everyone does, then the person would have simply nowhere to go, even
in today’s worlds. In order for this to be forced integration, it
would need to be the case that someone is invited by the government
and the government gives that person an accommodation. This does not
seem to happen very often. If it does however, it is indeed not
libertarian. But then again, instead of establishing general border
controls and a visa system, the way to deal with that would be to
abolish these state programs too. In fact, in this case, border
controls and visas are clearly of no importance, as this obviously
happens with or without these policies in place as well. So Hoppe is
simply wrong if he concludes that it is the immigration controls
itself that lead to forced integration.

Up to this point in
the articles Hoppe has failed completely to establish an argument in
favour of libertarian state border controls. However, in the
remaining three parts, his arguments actually get a lot worse. While
up unit now, he at least tried to make it look like he was making a
consistent argument, he completely loses this in what is coming. It
is a mixture of wild speculation and false conclusions that is not
concerned with principals or consistencies. Let us have a look at it.

In part five he
argues that if we had an absolute monarch that owned the whole
country, then we would get similar results to free market
immigration. It is beyond me how he comes to this bizarre conclusion.
I guess, his line of thoughts goes something like this:
Libertarianism is about property. If we had a single ruler, then the
country could be seen as property. Therefore this would produce
similar results to free markets.

Just like in the
case of the word ‘free’, Hoppe has probably confused himself with
words. He calls both property and therefore it becomes the same
thing. He does not seem to realise that a King owning a country has
absolutely nothing to do with property as being advocated by liberty
loving libertarians. To be fair, a lot of libertarians do not
understand the link between liberty and property. They therefore
cannot distinguish between liberty maximising and non liberty
maximising property. They simply think liberty is property. And
Hoppe’s argument is probably a result of that confusion.

But at the very
least, he should realise that it is very dangerous to even just
approximate a head of state to a private property owner. This is an
argument often done by statist who want to justify things like
taxation and regulations. They will argue that really no one owns
anything, everything is owned by the state and therefore the state
can tell you what to do with it or even take it away from you.

He continues this
strange argument into part six, where he approximates a democratic
government as the owner of the country. But since this owner, is not
a single person anymore, but a changing committee, it will produce
very different immigration rules than a king, so he argues. Fair
enough, but what does that have to do with libertarianism? The state
simply should go out of the way. The problems of immigration that
Hoppe correctly or not incorrectly describes in this part are not
problems coming from open borders, but from other state policies. And
as he himself argued in part two, that is not a good argument against
open borders.

He also takes this
ownership analogy way too far, as if the democratic state would
directly allocate people into properties. The reality however is,
that this rarely happens. Most of the residential properties in the
US as well as all the other western countries are owned privately.
The state in such an environment going out of the way is just a
policy of liberty.

Finally in part
seven, he comes to a conclusion. This is not a logical conclusion.
His argumentation so far was all over the place. He uses words in
different meanings as it suits him in every given sentence. He wildly
speculates about results of all kinds of systems and presents the
conclusions of his speculation as market results if he likes them.
And he simply is not very bothered with contradicting himself. In one
word, his argumentation is a big mess. And so he concludes not what
has followed, but what he wanted to conclude all along; that as long
as the state exists (and to his credit, he stresses that the state
will have to go), libertarians need to support certain state
immigration policies which Hoppe thinks are close to market results.
This is nonsense and I cannot see that he has even come close so far
to an argument that would justify such a conclusion on libertarians
principals.

A similar mess is
the second article, “Immigration and Libertariansm”. Here he
repeats a lot of the arguments that we have already seen. However, he
makes some new ones. But first he start by attacking
“left-libertarians”. He suggests that those are not real
libertarians. I can see some people who might be called left
libertarians that really are not, like Noam Chomsky. However, Hoppe
never explains who exactly he means by that. But from the article, it
seems that if you believe that the state should get out of the way of
immigration unconditionally, then you are a left libertarian as
opposed to just a libertarian. Silly attempt of an ad hominem attack.

His new arguments
are first, that one could see the state as a trustee of all its
citizens (he seems obsessed with constructing arguments that present
the government as legitimate property owners. He never talks about
liberty, property is clearly all he knows). On the basis of this
argument he then goes on to outline what he thinks a sensible
immigration policy would be. By that he means, what he would like to
see. It is not at all clear why his proposals should be the results
of a trustee.

Seeing the state as
a trustee of its citizens is of course absolute nonsense from a
libertarian point of view. Again, this is exactly the kind of
nonsense that statist are trying to sell us. The state is not a
voluntary and therefore legitimate organisation that can legitimately
make decisions on behave of its citizens.

Hoppe actually
concedes that seeing the state as a trustee is not a good way of
looking at it. But his reason for that is really strange. He does not
reject the idea because it violates people’s liberty, no. He think
this is a bad analogy because we don’t see the immigration policies
that he thinks we should see, as Hoppe sees them as market results.

In reality, since
the state cannot be seen as a trustee, any policy that comes out of
the state restriction the free movement of people on the basis of
private property has to be seen as illegitimate, no matter what these
policies are. And Hoppe never comes up with an example of the state
actually violating the property of domestic people by letting
“foreigners” through the state gate. Sure there are plenty of
other policies in place that do violate private property rights. But
those are separate policies from immigration controls.

Policies like the
welfare state, which he goes on to blame for some negative effects on
immigration. The welfare state might or might not produce these
effects, the case is actually a lot less clear than he might think.
In any case, Libertarians are not advocating welfare, just open
borders. And again, Hoppe himself rejected the argument of conflating
the two in his other article, so why does he bring it up here?

At one point he
actually not only concludes that immigration is bad for the welfare
state, but that “a financial crisis of unparalleled magnitude would
result”. This is really beneath Hoppe. There is not a shred of
evidence that immigration is causing economic problems. If it did, it
would be an argument against free markets in general. And as we have
seen above, Hoppe knows this very well.

It is a bit
difficult to make a clear conclusion from all of this. Why is Hoppe
coming up with such a mess of an argumentation? Is he too stupid to
realize what he is doing? He might be, but it is not the impression
that I have of Hoppe. I think he knows what he is doing and he is
doing it deliberately. It looks to me like that he knows that there
is not a case for libertarian state border controls. But he really
does not like the outcome of this particular free market policy. So
he is deliberately creating a messy argumentation. That way he can
suggest to the anti immigration crowd that they are ok rejecting
immigration on libertarian grounds. And that crowd seems more than
happy to ignore the mess and pick up the ball. On the other hand, if
a critic comes along trying to suggest that he is not a libertarian,
he will point to the sentences in which he says that he does not like
the state and wants to get rid of it. But that does not change the
fact that these sentences are in contradiction with lots of other
things he writes. He is clearly trying to avoid that critics can
easily pin him down. It is easy to pin someone down who has a good
argument but is making little mistakes. Than a critic can point to
the specific mistake. But if someone’s arguments are all over the
place, criticism becomes more difficult as it is difficult to find a
starting point. It is also harder to totally dismantle the mess. And
so he can create the illusion that, although he might have made a
mistake or two, there still is a case for libertarian state border
controls. This is nonsense, as I have shown.

I don’t like what
Hoppe is doing. He makes libertarianism look disingenuous.
Libertarianism looks like statist conservatism, an ideology which,
like all statist ideologies is only in favour of some freedom, but
also has its favourite state programs. We do not have to trick people
into Libertarianism. If we cannot argue honestly, this movement will
fail.