No, Open Borders are Not A Unique Threat

Economically speaking, there are four main resources: land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial spirit (this last one is debatable, but that’s a conversation for another time). These resources are used in conjunction with one another to produce economic growth. But they are inanimate resources. They are owned by humans but are not human in and of themselves.

This sounds like an obvious point, so why do I say it?  Because I often hear the argument (and I am paraphrasing here) “Open borders [that is, free trade in labor] is distinctly different from free trade [that is, free trade in goods/services] because labor votes and goods/services don’t!”

Such a statement is a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between ownership and a resource itself.  Labor does not vote.  The owner of labor (the one selling it) does vote*.  Just like capital does not vote.  The owner of capital votes.

Often times, the above statement is used for a reason why we can’t have open borders.  For some reason, opening the borders threaten free markets.  But this threat is not unique to open borders.  The owners of capital can be a threat to free markets, too.  Did not the owners of Ford, GM, Chrysler lobby for bailouts and special protection?  Did not US steel makers lobby for tariffs on imported steel?  Did not sugar companies lobby for subsidies? Do not private corporations like Planned Parenthood demand support from the government? The list goes on and on.  The owners of capital are voters, too, and they too can be swayed into demanding protection for their business from foreign competition and will try to expand the power of the state.

There is no unique threat from importing labor (that is, immigration) that is not present in importing goods/services.

Does the threat of competition make our jobs harder?  Oh yes.  But so does free speech.  If we just pick and choose what classical liberal values to defend in order to make our jobs easier, then we will quickly become hypocrites and scoundrels.

*For the sake of discussion, I’m not going to go into caveats like “Not all foreign laborers become citizens who vote,” and “Not all voters do vote.”