Rebutting Wilkinson

February 5, 2011

First of all, let me apologize for being derelict in addressing  Will Wilkinson’s  series of columns for The Economist. I had wanted to to respond to these short polemics, written as an ongoing dialogue between he and David Frum during the height of the DREAM Act’s legislative push during a lame duck session of Congress, earlier but multiple factors prevented me from doing so.

Since the focus of this site at the time was on preventing passage of DREAM, I felt that our resources could be better utilized by conveying information that you could use in persuading key senators to vote against this piecemeal amnesty, rather than rehashing the pros and cons of the bill itself.

I had intended on going back and delineating my philosophical objections to Will Wilkinson’s approach to immigration this January, but was prevented from doing so by a persistent flu bug. Now that I’m better able to marshal my arguments, I’m going to try and explain not the devastating consequences that would result from the enactment of his ideas-something that I’ve addressed at length on this site-but why those ideas are completely and utterly fraudulent. At least, when espoused by a purported “libertarian.”

Now, let me begin by giving credit to those open borders enthusiasts from the ostensible right, usually those working for corporate entitities heavily dependent upon low-skilled, inexpensive labor imported from abroad, who defend their stance in purely economic terms. Even though they are not forthright enough to admit that they want unfettered immigration because it will lower their labor costs by slashing the wages commanded by prospective American employees, they do not mask their their support for open borders through pseudo-intellectual posturing and logically inconsistent arguments masquerading as Hayekian dogma.

The truth is that there’s nothing libertarian in nature about demanding the importation of millions of low-skilled, poorly educated immigrants who will artificially reshape the labor market while saddling taxpaying Americans with a perpetual unfunded mandate in order to maintain their standard of living. This is not an expression of our compassion as a nation, nor a bold experiment demonstrating the infallibility of an unhindered free market. It is corporate welfare, which amnesty opponents who have studied this issue are more thank eager to point out.

Therefore, what prods ostensibly libertarian, or at least, libertarianish, pundits like Mr. Wilkinson to embrace such a top-down, tax-eating government policy? I think the answer lies in a column he penned several years ago for The Economist, which claims to explore the the psycho-genetic basis for all of those nasty, “xenophobic” and “restrictionist” feelings that Wilkinson’s political opponents harbor. Although, what actually is revealed in this post is the psychology of Will Wilkinson himself, which is a lot more illuminating than the purportedly irrational basis of the American public’s reluctance to admit an unlimited number of refugees from every corner of the globe.

But the modern nation state is a new idea: there were no nation states in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness. And the modern nation state is vastly larger than the cooperative coalitions for which we are likely evolutionarily adapted. There is something distinctly unnatural about nation-level coalitions. The interesting question to me is how it is that we have come to see the co-members of our nation states as members of the relevant in-group. Iowans don’t get testy when Minnestotans move in, but Texans get cranky about Mexicans? Why is that? People in Delaware don’t fret a lot about their jobs being outsourced to South Dakota.Why not?

I think the paragraph excerpted above is the quintessence of  Will Wilkinson’s political philosophy.  As far as our national sovereignty is concerned, he does not believe it exists. The Constitutionally enshrined role of our federal government to protect and maintain our nation’s territorial integrity is nothing more than a pernicious psychological quirk that has no application in the real world. If this sounds familiar, it should. It is the same utopian fantasy propagated by radical Marxists, who also-not surprisingly-believe that there should be no impediments to unfettered immigration. At least, immigration into the wealthy, predominately capitalist nations of Western Europe and North America.

Here we have laid bare the true agenda of open borders libertarians, which is nothing more than the complete eradication of national borders in order to transform our society. It’s the antithesis of libertarian philosophy, which claims to disdain overarching, government plans that do not take into account the feelings of individuals, or the numerous unquantifiable factors that can not be accounted for by an existing government bureaucracy. A philosophy that incorporates Misesian skepticism about the ability to establish fixed prices and the corresponding subjective theory of value is transformed into a dogma that demands we allow and any all foreigners who wish to come here a free pass, and that this will always have a positive correlative effect on economic growth.

In short, the proposals of Wilkinson and other “liberaltarians” have absolutely no bearing on the functions of a free market, or the desirability of free trade, but are indeed utopian fantasies that are not substantively any different from the materialism of Marxist philosophy they routinely excoriate. So while Will Wilkinson might like to think of himself as something of an intellectual renegade, he’s nothing more than yet another ideologue committed to exacerbating a difficult problem that could be resolved, if not for the continued circulation of bad ideas among our nation’s governing class.




Tags: , cosmotarianism, cosmotarians, David Frum, , , Friedrich Von Hayek, , Hayek, , , liberaltarians, , , , , , South Dakota, , University of Pennsylvania, UPENN, utopianism,

5 Responses to Rebutting Wilkinson

  1. Russell on February 5, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Borders that prevent people from traveling at desire, working where they find opportunity, and living where they would may be the single feature of the modern state that is most antithetical to individual liberty. The government telling a worker within its borders must participate in social security and pay income tax impinges far less on liberty than telling a worker he cannot work here — or come here — at all. To the extent that there are reasonable, pragmatic arguments against open borders, these also are arguments against libertarianism. Those who value human freedom persuaded by such arguments accede only reluctantly, still wanting borders as open as practical. To argue for closed state borders in the name of libertarianism is only confused. That word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  2. Denver on February 5, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates the maximization of liberty for every individual.

    No government should have enough authority to stop the peaceful migration of individuals. If you give a government the authority to do so, that authority will, ultimately, be abused. Abusing authority is what Governments do.

  3. G. Perry on February 5, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Russell, the Constitution was written to delineate the freedoms enjoyed by Americans, not Mexicans, Ecuadoreans, El Salvadorans, you get the picture.

    Secondly, I’m not arguing that reasonable immigration restrictions and law enforcement should be part of the libertarian platform, only that even by libertarian standards the calls for perpetual unfettered immigration of people dependent upon social welfare programs doesn’t withstand serious intellectual scrutiny.

  4. dunce on February 27, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    There are huge costs associated with open borders and some people also get finacial benefits but as usual with schemes like this it boils down to a redistribution of wealth because the costs are on one group and the benefits go to another besides the benefits the illegal immigrants enjoy.

  5. G. Perry on February 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM


    It’s a gigantic subsidy for certain industries, and individuals, that folks like Wilkinson, Jacoby, Dahlmia, among others, want to present to the American public as some sort of extension of free trade. It’s actually the exact opposite, another form of corporate welfare that any self-respecting libertarian should question.


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