Monday, June 16, 2014

Immigration - A Libertarian Case For Tariffs

The recent surge of thousands of unaccompanied children pouring through America’s southern border poses ethical, moral and humanitarian challenges.

We often think of immigration in terms mature full grown adults seeking a better life.  That certainly makes it easier to strike a more strident stand regarding legalities and remedies.  The thought of repatriating callow youths back to dysfunctional homelands seems cruel.

Freedom of movement is a fundamental libertarian principle.  It is an extension of free market principles. People can and will relocate to where prospects for a good life a rosier.   When it comes to adult immigration, the Cato Institute argues that the net benefit of immigration is positive.  Does their argument hold true in the case of unaccompanied children?  Perhaps not.

This brings to mind Milton Friedman’s incisive observation that "It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."

In the case of adults, it can be argued that many, if not most, are honest, hard workers who are seeking remunerative opportunities.  Children, however, are certainly going to become wards of the taxpayers.  The kids will need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, educated and given medical care.  To afford this, federal, state and local governments will impose an unelected and therefore, un-libertarian, burden on their citizens.

Anyone who saw the classic DePlama / Pacino Scarface will recall that the film’s premise was that Castro was deporting his social problems to the U.S.  Fidel emptied his prisons and asylums and set these unwanted souls adrift in the Atlantic, headed for Miami.  This closely adheres to the libertarian definition of pollution.  That is, dumping your refuse on another person’s property.

In a sense, Mexico and Central American nations are doing the same thing.  They are dumping their social ills onto our soil. The remedy, I believe, is to attack the dumpers, not the dumpees.

The solution lies in an idea that the Obama administration put forward in the early days of the Russian incursion into Ukraine.  Impound the assets of those responsible for creating the problem.

Let’s start by allowing all who are not known disease carriers or criminals into the U.S.  Then we ask the good old IRS to track the net monetary contribution that each individual immigrant has made to his community.  The IRS will also track whatever cost burdens that said immigrant has placed upon his host community.  If the contributions exceed the costs, no problemo! Everybody wins.

If the cost to maintain the immigrant individual and / or his family exceeds his contributions, someone must be made to pay.  This is where the asset freezing comes in.

The U.S. will simply put a lien on the U.S. based financial assets of the originating government, its corporations and its leading citizens.  Funds from these accounts will be used to reimburse American taxpayers for the expense of maintaining that country’s citizens while they were guests in the U.S.A.

This is the Immigration Tariff.  It is a tariff that is libertarian because it imposes costs on those who create the immigration problem. I am sure that once those nations that dump their social ills on America are forced to pay a price, they will make needed reforms to retain their most vulnerable countrymen.


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