Monday, April 10, 2006

Immigration Plus Welfare State Equal Police State

Illegal immigrants are overwhelming the resources of the Welfare State: government–funded hospital emergency rooms are filled with them; public schools are filled with their children. On the basis of such complaints, many people are angry and want to close the border to new illegal immigrants and deport those who are already here.

They want to keep new illegal immigrants out with fences along the border. It is not clear whether the fences would contain intermittent watchtowers with searchlights and machine guns. The illegal immigrants who are already here would be ferreted out by threatening anyone who employed them with severe penalties and making it a criminal offense not to report them.

This is a classic illustration of Mises’s principle that prior government intervention into the economic system breeds later intervention. Here the application of his principle is, start with the Welfare State, end with the Police State. A police state is what is required effectively to stop substantial illegal immigration that has become a major burden because of the Welfare State.

The philosophy of individual rights and capitalism implies that foreigners have a right to come and to live and work here, i.e., to immigrate into the United States. The land of the United States is owned by individuals and voluntary associations of individuals, such as private business firms. It is not owned by the United States government or by the American people acting as a collective; indeed many of the owners of land in the United States are not Americans, but foreign nationals, including foreign investors.

The private owners of land have the right to use or sell or rent their land for any peaceful purpose. This includes employing immigrants and selling them food and clothing and all other goods, and selling or renting housing to them. If individual private landowners are willing to accept the presence of immigrants on their property as employees, customers, or tenants, that should be all that is required for the immigrants to be present. Anyone else who attempts to determine the presence of absence of immigrants is simply an interfering busybody ready to use a gun or club to impose his will.

At the same time, however, the philosophy of individual rights and capitalism implies that the immigrants do not have a right to be supported at public expense, which is a violation of the rights of the taxpayers. Of course, it is no less a violation of the rights of the taxpayers when native-born individuals are supported at public expense. The immigrants are singled out for criticism based on the allegation that they in particular are making the burden intolerable.


The implementation of the rights both of the immigrants and of the taxpayers requires the abolition of the Welfare State. Ending the Welfare State will end any problem of immigrants being a public burden.

Of course, ending the Welfare State is much easier said than done, and it is almost certainly not going to be eliminated even in order to avoid the environment of a police state.

But the burdens of the Welfare State and the consequent resentment against immigrants could at the very least be substantially reduced by means of some relatively simple, common-sense reforms in the direction of greater economic freedom.

In a future posting, I’ll explain how not only the problem of chronically crowded hospital emergency rooms but also the whole so-called crisis of the medically uninsured, which certainly applies to all illegal immigrants, could be radically reduced, if not entirely eliminated, by introducing some simple economic freedoms into medical care.


This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

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