Amit Singh for Congress

My friend Amit Singh is running for Congress in Virginia's 8th District. In the past, he's been a commenter on this blog and his DC condo served as Hotel Catallarchy for Catallarchicon I back in 2005. I can't go into any more details about what took place on those premises because he's running for Congress.

He's running as a Republican though with a definite libertarian streak. You can read more about his positions at his website. On May 15th, he's having a fund raiser which is described here. There's also a video of Amit and Ron Paul deciding on what to eat for lunch. Paul gives an Oscar-worthy performance if Oscars were given for Youtube videos.

I'll be conducting an interview with Amit in the very near future. In the meantime, those of you in the DC/Northern Virginia area should check out his website.

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tact ? whact tact


* Punish companies who knowingly hire undocumented workers
* Cease free government handouts
* Secure the border
* Implement native country based guest worker program

So, is he willing to shoot the mexican children himself at the border, is he going to pay someone to do it, or does he believe the border can be secured without use of deadly force?

More tact

Maybe Jonathan can put the question to Amit with some more tact. I would like to see how the case for strong anti-immigration is made on libertarian grounds.

Some of the positions that came up during the Paul campaign were:

  • Controlling immigration is critical to maintaining US sovereignty.
  • Immigration "problems" are exaggerated by poor economic performance. Poor performance in other countries drives more immigrants to the US and poor performance in the US causes jealousy of foreign workers.
  • Immigration should not be controlled by means that restrict the civil liberties of US citizens (such as National ID cards). I'm not sure what the position was regarding the civil liberties of non-citizen residents approved by the government.
  • Immigration should be discouraged at the margins, by increasing the cost of entering the US and decreasing the benefit.

Note that these are not necessarily my views--I am just trying to understand the position better. I like to keep my sovereignty personal, and don't really distinguish between whether someone else is or isn't in the local citizenship club.

Best of luck to "Spoonie Luv"!

Now that I've had my morning

Now that I've had my morning caffeine, I can develop my idea more clearly. I believe one of the reason people lack moral insight when discussing politics is that everything is remote. I find that asking people if they would dare enforce their own political choice can be a shock therapy. Sure, in this case you can find some border watch vigilantes that'll gladly shoot the Mexican children, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Keep that in mind : there is no border security without the explicit threat of murder. If you want border security, deal with that.

I have both employed undocumented workers and worked without documents in the past. I don't know Amit, I don't believe he is a bad person, but would he personally put me into a cage? Would he personally break into my bank account and take my money? One cop-out is to say, "no because it is the sole right of the state". Fine, let's put aside the question whether the state has super moral powers and weaken the original question. Does Amit merely want me in a cage? Will Amit look me in the eye and tell me I ought to be locked up in bars for what I did?

Legitimate Question


I agree it's a legitimate question, and I understand the tactic of personalizing it. I would like to see it dealt with in detail instead of being dismissed as tactless.

Open immigration would seem to improve trade and thus overall value (if you accept the arguments of Austrian economics). If the combination of open immigration and state welfare causes problems, I would expect an Austrian to focus on eliminating state welfare.

But before I jump to conclusions, I'd like to hear the strongest case possible for immigration restrictions made by someone familiar with Austrian economics.

You would expect an Austrian

You would expect an Austrian to focus on eliminating state welfare and not on eliminating peaceful immigration. But you would be wrong.

He is not the only Austrian

You would be wrong to expect all Austrians without exception to focus on eliminating state welfare rather than peaceful immigration, but you would not be wrong to expect many Austrians to do so. Possibly even most, though I have conducted no survey. It is furthermore generally an uninteresting fact that group X has at least one member that has property Y, since humans vary.

Let's try this out on blacks instead of Austrians: "You would expect a black man to refrain from raping a white woman, but you would be wrong." Insert link to news item in which a black man rapes a white woman. The world is big enough that such a news item could be found.

Notice the suggestion in the quote that black men usually do not refrain from raping white women. An analogous suggestion is being made in the statement about Austrians, whether intentional or not, thus necessitating the corrective reply.

Hoppe is not a lone

Hoppe is not a lone exception. LvMI bills itself as the leading center of Austrian econ, and free immigration is considered the minority opinion there, not the other way around.

Do you have a source ?

Do you have a source ?

There is no "official

There is no "official policy"; at best, it's a personal impression, supported by the personal impression of many others, based on the number of Institute scholars and their rank and reputation who are opposed to free immigration relative to supporters. The head of the organization seems to be more supportive of the anti position, and doesn't dispute the implication I have given. In an interview with Lew:

KUSKOWSKI: Libertarians are divided on the immigration question, with both sides having seemingly good libertarian arguments for their position. The Mises Institute is reputed for its anti-immigration stance.

Lew does not object to this characterization, and in fact supports it, at least on LRC if not

Low Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Unfortunately, that article seemed to focus mostly on personal disputes between Palmer and Hoppe. I would like to find out if there is a legitimate case to be made against immigration on libertarian principles.

Hoppe makes a case

If you want to know what Hoppe's case is, read or listen to Hoppe. I don't find the case persuasive, but you might. I'm sure the material is easy to Google.

Click through

The first link in the Palmer article had a reference to Hoppe's views on immigration. I'll add them to my reading list.

I was really just whining about Micha taking a cheap shot at paleos again.

How is it a cheap shot?

How is it a cheap shot? Paleos truly do hate immigrants and freedom, and love the state. :)

Immigration Position

Amit's published view on immigration sounds more reasonable than most policies I have heard from politicians. Most of it talks about economic incentives influencing immigration to the US. I count five places on that page where the state would intrude on otherwise voluntary trade:

  1. securing the border (most of paragraph 3),
  2. punishing companies who hire unregistered/illegal aliens (paragraph 4),
  3. forcing visitors to record entrance and exit to the US (paragraph 5),
  4. requiring a demonstration of need for immigrant employment (paragraph 8), and
  5. taxing immigrants (albeit the same as citizens--paragraphs 8 and 9).

Presumably, each of these would need to be explained as something a libertarian would agree with, such as defense of property or punishment for an act of coercion. Alternatively, some could be a way of reducing harm from the status quo in transition to a libertarian end state.

Threat of Murder

Arthur B.:

Keep that in mind : there is no border security without the explicit threat of murder.

Is it also true that, "There is no protection of property without the explicit threat of murder"?

It depends on the property.

It depends on the property. If the property is not very valuable, then not really. I can realistically protect my watch without killing anyone. It can also be easy to protect property from thieves through technological mean, a big safe for example. Some properties would require the threat of death (it wouldn't be technically a murder) to be protected.

In the case of the US-Mexico border, I believe it cannot be realistically secured without the threat of murder. Even if you build walls for example, I don't think you can do without armed guards who will shoot.

I dare any politician to strictly forbid shooting immigrants, as this would de facto open the border.

Justified killing is not murder

Justified killing is not murder, so defense of (valuable) property that escalates to the killing of the would-be thief/intruder/trespasser is not necessarily murder.

Similarly, the killing of border-crossers is automatically murder only if it is wrong in the first place to define and defend territorial borders. I think it's wrong and so I don't personally have any problem with the categorization of this killing as murder.

But not everyone does, so not everyone will consider the killing of a border-crosser automatically to be murder.

But never mind this. Suppose we made it an iron rule that border control could not employ lethal means (unless, say, the migrants themselves produced weapons and opened fire on the border control). Wouldn't a purely non-lethal border control have at least some significant effect in reducing illegal immigration?

I gave it some thought, I

I gave it some thought, I think it would be very hard.

One approach is to control people's identity a lot, for example by introducing a national ID and heavily penalize anyone hiring illegal immigrants. While this is technically doable, I think it isn't politically feasible in the US, not yet at least (fortunately). However it isn't "securing the border" per se.

The other approach is to go walls, taser, microwaves, etc. That seems prohibitively expensive and does not provide a deterrent as strong as a bullet.

I might be wrong, it's really an economics/technology question. It's a gut feeling.


But Arthur, this answer sounds like you don't have a problem with making a border crossing more costly.

The border isn't a binary choice of impenetrable or open, it has some cost to cross. An immigrant will have to weigh the cost of getting permission to cross, crossing without permission, or not crossing, against expected benefits. Presumably, adding to the cost incrementally will deter some, but not all, from crossing.

Maybe if immigrants are discovered to cross without registering, the guards are allowed to approach and escort them back across the border. If the immigrants flee into the US, they can be tracked for apprehension. Only if an immigrant threatens or uses force, do the rules of engagement allow the guard to use proportionate force in defense. If you substitute "trespasser" for "unregistered immigrant", and talk about private property, this isn't very different from what I would expect natural law to be.

The biggest problem I see with current immigration law is that it assumes that national border guards have some legitimate authority to act on behalf of all property owners within the nation. This might be the only flaw, and might be sufficient to make any immigration control incompatible with libertarian ideology.

But Arthur, this answer

But Arthur, this answer sounds like you don't have a problem with making a border crossing more costly.

I do, I just don't need to mention it to make that argument.

Only if an immigrant threatens or uses force, do the rules of engagement allow the guard to use proportionate force in defense. If you substitute "trespasser" for "unregistered immigrant", and talk about private property, this isn't very different from what I would expect natural law to be.

That's precisely my point, the strong intuition that shooting immigrants is wrong reveals to us the obvious : the state is not the private property of the government.

migrating at the margin

Consider this: Illegally entering the US requires that the individual (1) subject themselves to mortal risk, (2) bring only what they can carry, and (3) in the case of a Mexico/US border crossing, part with considerable wealth to pay a "coyote". These costs are not very different from those faced by the waves of European migrants in 1900. What I suggest is that they are, De facto, a filter in so much as the less industrious are not likely to take this route. Rather they would be far more likely to try the course of legal migration, which requires that the individual submit paperwork and have the good fortune of winning the lottery.

The caveat: The benefit should be, as it was in 1900, the opportunity to be rewarded for hard work. If however, the expected benefit is the receiving government handouts, all bets are off.