Does Libertarianism Lead to Statism?

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Patrick J. Buchanan – January 22, 2002

Among the adversaries of Big Government on the American scene, few have proven more principled than the libertarians.

Believing with Jefferson that that government governs best which governs least, think tanks like Cato and Von Mises institutes can be found in the van of every movement to roll back taxes or reduce state power. Believing in the adage of the old antiwar activist Randolph Bourne, “War is the health of the state,” libertarians have been among the strongest allies of the Old Right in forging a new foreign policy that keeps America out of wars where the vital interests of the Republic are not threatened.

But on open borders, as on mass immigration, libertarians line up with the Party of Government. And given the consequences of these policies in enhancing state power, the relevant question is why? For on these issues, libertarian principles seem to be leading us directly to Big Government at home and World Government abroad.

Since the 1950s, the European Common Market has evolved into a monstrous and intrusive socialist superstate – the European Union, the very model for world government, now run by faceless bureaucrats who dictate to Europe’s nation-states. NAFTA and GATT have spawned new supra-national bodies like the World Trade Organization. While immigration has held down the wages of U.S. workers, where has it reduced state power?

Some 90 percent of the 1.5 million legal and illegal aliens who come here every year are from the Third World. Their crime rate is twice that of the native-born, which translates into diminished security for American citizens and a necessary expansion of state police power – i.e., more cops, judges, courts, jails, prisons.

As these immigrants are also far poorer than Americans, they are disproportionate users of social services – i.e., health care, food stamps, rent supplements, legal services and general welfare. Immigrants have become the principal propellants of the growth of the welfare state.

Not only do they consume far more in government services than they pay in taxes, they are the sole reason America must build new schools and hire more teachers, indefinitely. And as many children arrive poorly prepared for school, unable to speak the language, their tests scores pull down the national averages – and those scores are then exploited to make the case for still more money to an NEA-dominated system of public education.

And this is the reason the GOP, which in 1992 and 1996 called for the abolition of the Department of Education, somersaulted in 2000, and in collusion with an elated Edward Kennedy, voted for a vast expansion of the resources and power of DOE.

Then, there is the political effect of immigration.

Of the two national parties, libertarians tend to nest in the GOP. But consider what mass immigration is doing to that party. In 1996, Clinton carried first-time Hispanic voters 15-to-1. He also swept six of the seven major immigrant states: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Florida – as did Gore, with Florida in dispute. But of the 10 states with the smallest share of immigrant population, George W. Bush carried all 10. And of the 15 with the fewest immigrants, he carried 14.

Thus does mass immigration not only lead to endless enlargement of state power, it points to permanent minority status for any party of limited government. And thus does the pursuit of libertarian principles, on open borders and ally-ally-in-free immigration, lead to Leviathan, the death of the libertarian ideal.

With an anticipated 75 million immigrants poised to enter the United States in the next half century – mostly poor folks, far more prolific than our native-born – there will arise an inexorable need for still more police, jails, prisons, schools, laws, rules, regulations, services and restrictions on all Americans at the local, state and national level.

And so, just as the triumph of libertarian ideas on no-fault divorce accelerated the break-up of families, leading to wives and children thrown into dependency on the state, libertarian devotion to limitless immigration must further enlarge and empower the state. As they stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside Big Government liberals like Clinton, Gore, Daschle and Kennedy – for open borders and mass immigration – libertarians might ask themselves: Who is being had here?

Are libertarian principles leading inexorably to statist ends?

And if so, is it time for a long, hard look back at the sacred texts of the classical liberals of the 19th century? Were they perhaps as utopian, naive and mistaken as the Marxists they opposed?

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