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  • Writer's pictureAlan Stevens - AWAH - Libertarianism, Freedom.

Free Societies and Immigration

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Migration by hard-to-assimilate Third World groups is causing rising tension in western countries. Migration to prosperous free societies would be limited to more productive and cooperative incomers.

Migration by hard-to-assimilate Third World groups is causing rising tension in western countries. Migration to prosperous free societies would be limited to more productive and cooperative incomers.

It is important to recognize that immigration, or a particular kind of immigration at least, is perceived by the original population as an invasion. Recent waves of third world immigrants into European countries and the USA have the characteristics of invasions. They may well result in violence, instability and fragmentation within nation states.

But surely, if Libertarianism is about letting people get on with their lives as they see fit, then we Libertarians must be ‘in favour’ of the current mass migration? Well no, not exactly.


It’s worth taking a step back and asking why anybody leaves their own society to try to make their way amongst strangers with different customs and language. Why should there be migration at all? Migrants typically have to start at the bottom of the pile in a new country. However capable, they may never rise to the same relative position in their new home as they would have in their old home.

Nor is it clear that having ‘multicultural’ societies comprising groups of people of noticeably different cultures is actually helpful. Studies tend to indicate that diverse populations have lower levels of trust and cohesion.

Yes, there is evidence that large cities are disproportionately more creative and energetic than smaller places. But that is because there are so many more opportunities for chance meetings to result in highly productive outcomes. The frequent presence in large cities of immigrant groups doesn’t, as far as I am aware, necessarily contribute much if at all to this effect.


Clearly some migrants in all ages have been refugees. European Jews escaping Hitler, Ugandan Asians, Middle Eastern Christians, and White Russians, Cubans, Hungarians and so many others escaping Communism, are all examples of people for whom flight was imperative. In greater numbers the Turkish and Greek exchange of populations in the 1920s and partition of India in 1947 saw much greater movements of refugees.

My mother’s family took in refugees from Europe just before WWII. They had had to leave the Continent and were often destined to be the only survivors in their families. They constructively then made the best of things in Britain after the war. I don’t think many would have left their own societies had they not been persecuted there.

Then there have been migrants who bring the benefits of membership of international networks of commerce and a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial talent and skills to host countries. They are able to create prosperous niches for themselves in each country which the less well connected and skilled native-born inhabitants in each country cannot do. Some communities such as the Jews, Lebanese, Armenians and various South and East Asian groups fit this description.

A variant of this is migration by workers with newly developed technological skills spreading them to less advanced societies. An example would be 19th century British factory and railway engineers, technicians and developers moving to lead investment projects in other newly-industrialising countries. Another one would be the movement of Flemish weavers into southern England in early modern times, which could have brought my surname here.


The really big migrations of the last two hundred years have however overwhelmingly in search of economic betterment. For three centuries Europeans migrated to the New World, the Americas and, much later, Australasia. There were abundant opportunities for settlers on a continental scale.

The land was empty because Amerindian populations were nearly wiped out by a lethal combination of Old World diseases to which they had virtually no inherited immunity. The point of contention between historians is whether Amerindian populations fell by as much as 99% or ‘only’ by 95% in the 16th century. Either way the land became empty enough.

Into it these vast spaces the Spanish, Portuguese and later the British could introduce their own legal and cultural structures. The first two created extractive or exploitative structures based on African and Indian slavery, on systematic official corruption at all levels, and on mercantilist skimming of the benefits of colonial trade in the monopoly home ports of Seville and Lisbon. Unproductive courtier, official and ecclesiastical vested interests siphoned off the surpluses to fund display and warfare. The home countries stagnated. Relatively few Spanish or Portuguese men sufficed to run these systems.

The British government might have tried to emulate Latin American practice but in British America, despite the existence of slavery in the southern American colonies and above all on the Caribbean sugar islands, North America basically developed in line with the increasingly libertarian legal and political structures of Britain after the 1688 Glorious Revolution.

That meant that a whole Continent could be filled up with very prosperous potential niches. All you needed was actual bodies willing to ship out and fill each and every role, and grasp the opportunities. That and the (British) capital needed in ‘to give employment to their labour’ in Adam Smith’s wonderful phraseology.

England had around 5 million inhabitants in 1688. So almost from the beginning people from the rest of the British Isles and from the Continent, especially Germany, were actively recruited to (re)populate North America. All were incorporated in a basically libertarian small state Classical Liberal legal framework which lasted into the early 20th century.

The growth of what is now the United States has been spectacular. From 4 million at independence, its population has increased to around 330 million currently. For centuries, America managed constant, rapid growth of living standards and population. The other ex-British colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand have done as spectacularly, given that their development got going a couple of centuries after America’s. By end of the nineteenth centuries as many Europeans were emigrating to America each year than there had been people in eighteenth century Britain.

These were not libertarian enthusiasts. They moved from poor European agrarian societies, increasing very poor societies such as Italy and Sicily with few libertarian traditions, for the opportunity to survive and prosper. The libertarian set up in America created abundant opportunities to live prosperous and peaceful lives. By and large the immigrants, especially the Europeans, integrated into a society that offered rewards for intelligent co-operative effort. And it offered nothing to people inclined to parasitic and un-co-operative values.

It is worth halting to note two things. The first (yet again) is the incredible success of the mainly libertarian English-speaking societies up to the early 20th Century. The second is this: It may be hard to convince most people of the workability of non-state mechanisms of voluntary cooperation but, once they see how great such a society can be, they all want in. Unfortunately, they may then inadvertently kill the golden goose.


There was no state dole to be had by the immigrants streaming into the New World offshoots of Britain’s Glorious Revolution, or indeed on a lesser scale into England itself. There was therefore no mileage in not getting on with co-operating with the host population and assimilating to it in a couple of generations. So migrants did just that.

But now the whole debate about migration has been falsified by the existence of the modern democratic socialist welfare systems, and of massive state property estates comprising roads and streets, social housing, state hospitals, railway and bus stations and subsidized universities.

The welfare system enables migrants to survive when they have little ability or intent to contribute to their host society. To be fair the dynamic of the welfare state has created a large, permanent British welfare dependent class too with its own serious problems. But welfare dependency is even higher amongst some third world immigrant groups in the UK.

The recipients of subsidy are those least likely and willing to assimilate into British society. They are being paid anyway. They need not face the real psychological discomfort of assimilating to a distinct host society. And generous welfare provision can contribute to having more children than the heavily taxed native population.

This publicly owned space stretches into every corner of a country. In the hands of power-grabbing politicians it provides the space into which to import migrants who will not assimilate. Politicians want to import groups who will vote for them and their plans for ever more state meddling in people’s lives, in return for handouts. Immigrant groups, however hard working and productive, tend to be supporters of the state and of socialism. That’s why left-wing parties in particular encourage welfare driven third world immigration.

Why would immigrants often be statist or left wing? Well, in the same way that a prosperous libertarian or free society must be sustained by anti-state or non-state public opinion, poverty stricken socialist or statist societies are sustained by pro-state public opinion.

Any group whose public opinion is statist or socialistic sustain a closed state dominated unfree society. Most people will therefore be poor because statism – allowing a legally privileged group to live by bullying and extortion – doesn’t work. Never has, never will. The more statism you have the poorer you will be. The history is clear.

So, you get lots of people with anti-libertarian, indeed wholly illiberal, political views in poor third world countries. At the same time, they are desperate to leave their state induced poverty and go to a rich country like America or Britain.

Now these latter countries became prosperous because of their populations’ earlier commitment to liberty as the organising principle of life in society - although unfortunately that commitment is under continuous attack by the state and its Marxist supporters. The newly arrived immigrants share in the benefits of living in free societies. But they also can help to destroy them by voting for statist politicians, just like they did back home.

What lesson should be drawn from this? A free society relies on the very strong incentives to assimilate productively with which it confronts all those who wish to move onto its territories. And to do this it should not tolerate the state, even a small or ‘minarchist’ Classical Liberal state.

The socialists, over the last century, were able to build on the old, small Classical Liberal state to gradually build and buy support for the vast modern Democratic Socialist state. It’s impending failure is now setting the stage for considerable disorder and disillusionment. In some places, especially in France, but in many other countries, the difficulties to come are going to be exacerbated by tensions between host populations and the locally majority immigrant communities which opportunistic politicians have fecklessly created.

Only abolitionist libertarianism can create a framework which eliminates the state entirely. It therefore gives no opportunity for the state to regrow like a tumour re-invading a previously healthy body. So how would properly free societies handle immigration?


I expect that there will be some communities, within a larger general libertarian framework, that will by voluntary agreement limit their populations to people having certain religious, cultural or other common attributes. Such (effectively ‘gated’) communities would simply reject any migrants, no matter how worthy, who did not meet the community’s specific requirements. They would presumably also simply eject rulebreakers.

Migration into a wider ‘non-gated’ open libertarian society would be a bit different. There would be no taxes and therefore no dole available to attract and subsidise migrants. That would avoid the creation hard to assimilate or employ third world enclaves.

On the other hand, free societies would be so much more prosperous than statist societies that the incentive for economic migration would be strong. This however is no bad thing if all the migrants are necessarily productive people who can fill otherwise vacant positions.

The key thing to remember is that in a free society everything, including every scrap of territory has its own absolute owner. Anybody who wishes to live in a country, as a tourist or as a migrant, has to get the agreement of at least one property owner there to rent or sell him space in which to exist or have his being. You couldn’t save expense by sleeping in a railway station or a road layby, unless the owners of the road or railway are willing to let you do so for free - which is unlikely. Urban roads would be controlled by residents. They will be able to exclude vagrants and possible troublemakers from their areas.

You couldn’t stay in state subsidized housing or hostels – there would be none. There might well be charitable provision of accommodation, or supportive friends and family, but all such arrangements are likely to be temporary. In effect any immigrant would need to be sponsored, at least informally by a landlord or hotel or boarding house owner.

Sponsorship might take the form of convincing an insurance company of your respectability. To participate effectively in a society based on the NAP, a tourist or migrant might well need to insure himself. It is quite likely that uninsured people would not be allowed on the road or rail owners’ systems, or even considered for employment. Indeed, migration might not be feasible without having first secured employment rewarding enough to pay for insurance, and accommodation.

In this way, the likelihood is migration will only comprise people who are self-supporting, productive and adaptable. They are likely to assimilate reasonably well to the host society.


Mostly therefore migration would be beneficial to free societies. It would be seen much more than it currently is in our statist societies. Nevertheless, it is possible to imagine that even a prosperous free society, especially a relatively small one, could be swamped by perfectly respectable and productive incoming migrants. This is especially true if the host culture has a markedly lower birthrate, perhaps even below replacement rate. Such low birthrates are now the norm in Western Europe.

In that case many inhabitants in the host society may still feel ‘invaded’ and faced with adjusting to customs of the newcomers who will form local majorities. This is not a prospect that people welcome. However, in a free society, members of the host population group at least have the advantage of initially owning all the properties in their territory. From which they would be free to exclude migrants.

It’s likely that, if public opinion in the host free society were very unfavourable to migrants (or certain migrants at least), then property owners, including the crucial transport system and accommodation owners would exclude them, making the host society much less permeable to an incoming population.

There would also be the possibility of the inhabitants voluntarily transforming itself into one more ‘gated’ enclaves where all property owners covenant not to sell or rent to specified groups, thus permanently preserving the host group’s territorial integrity.


Eventually every population which is unwilling to have enough children to keep its numbers up will fade away, free society or not, and be replaced by migrants from elsewhere. No blame can be attached to the latter for the host society’s extinction.

However, I suspect that current very low birth rates in western populations owe a very great deal to state policies. Marxist and feminist cultural indoctrination promulgated in the state-controlled universities and schools has devalued motherhood in Western societies. State welfare systems have undermined European populations’ family structures - whilst subsidising childbearing by economically less productive immigrant groups.

High housing costs and taxes, and lower living standards are also all consequences of the bloated states we live under. They all tend to make families, especially larger families, that much harder to afford.

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