Monday, September 14, 2015

A Libertarian Solution to the Refugee Crisis

Those who believe in implementing a policy should be the ones to pay for it. This applies to all aspects of "public policy". Do you want Iranian nuclear sites to be destroyed? Meetup with similar minded people and pool your resources to hire mercenaries and/or arm yourselves and fly over there to do it. Do you want Syrian refugees to be provided homes? Create a Kickstarter or similar crowdfunding initiative and use the existing marketplace to do so.

The corollary is do not force other people to pay for the things you want. Universal healthcare and education are all high-minded goals, and, I believe, a sure sign of a civilized people, but it is distinctly uncivilized to arrest and imprison people who do not wish to participate in a particular scheme, e.g., Obamacare, foreign interventions, bailouts, etc.

It's one thing if my neighbor decides to house Syrian refugees and bear the burden of that cost personally and quite another if my neighbor forces me to bear that cost using the system of government, i.e., legislation and taxation - welfare, in short. I might object to my neighbor housing refugees for a number of reasons, but ultimately, in a society where property rights are respected, what my neighbor does with his house and property is his business. If I really hated the idea of having refugee neighbors, I should have picked different neighbors.

This brings me to the next solution which is fairly controversial. The right of people to associate voluntarily by extension must include the right to discriminate. Discrimination has such heavy negative connotations but is something we all do as a benign activity every day. We discriminate in our choice of music, politicians, websites, movies, books, shops, products, and all manner of things.
We even largely discriminate among people in our personal lives; we choose who is allowed into our homes and with whom we are friends. This discrimination is ubiquitous and it's not a big deal. No one really cares if someone is only friends with millionaires or Vietnamese people or Call of Duty players or invites only Mormons into their home. However, attempt to extend this to customers or a social group and you could get thrown in jail.*

Even though I'm a convinced libertarian I can't help but recoil when I think of a society where hotels hang signs saying "No Jews Allowed" or with Whites Only restaurants. But think about it this way, if your neighbor did not want to rent their house to a black person, would you attempt to kidnap them and keep them locked up somewhere until they did? Because that is what anti-discrimination laws do. The reality is that the more diverse a society is, the greater the need for people to discriminate. Westboro Baptist Church members, abortionists, gang members, Nation of Islam members, homosexuals, the Amish, Klan members, drug users, open carry types, Serbs, Kosovars, etc. can't be expected to just get along. It's not unheard of for people within the same family to disagree to the point of ostracism let alone the groups previously mentioned. With explicit discrimination, at least groups with conflicting values can coexist by living in communities with shared values without having to worry about those communities coming under attack by well-intentioned integrationists.

It's true that there are always people who oppose even these sorts of communities, i.e., people who hate Chinatowns or other ethnic/religious enclaves because the people living there fail to integrate, but these people have no real argument because no one is forcing them to interact with these groups - at least in a society with a minimal state. The second that they are forced to interact, as they are now via state resettlement and welfare for refugees, is the second they do have an argument.

Ultimately, these migrations are going to lead to the creation of self-segregated communities anyway but with a lot of unspoken social rules and strife. What crowdfunded charity and explicit discrimination allow is migration in a way that provides the most satisfaction to the parties involved without resorting to violence. **

Going further, the removal of state violence in the form of welfare eliminates opportunistic migration to Germany, and the removal of state violence in the form of warfare largely eliminates war-related migrations in the first place. It is not to say that welfare and warfare would be eliminated with privatization, but rather that the costs of those activities are borne more privately than publicly. Of course it is as likely for Germany to eliminate welfare for migrants or allow discrimination as it is for the US to stop meddling in the Middle East so this is all theoretical.

Given that a libertarian solution is unlikely, what is the best course of action for Germany? Honestly, there is strong precedent for Muslim immigrant populations to broadly reject the general culture and values of the host country. If you agree with or are ambivalent towards Islamic principles, then it is a positive development. If you are at odds with Islamic principles, or at least the Saudi-led increasingly fundamentalist (Salafist) version of Islam that is in ascendancy today, accepting a million Muslim refugees is a bad idea.***

* Anti-discrimination laws exist, I think, as largely the result of the oppressor/oppressed paradigm posited by theorists like Paolo Freire. In this worldview, people aren't evaluated mainly by their individual merits but rather as members of a class, which, depending on the context, is an oppressor or oppressed class. Achieving greater equality, then, involves compensating the oppressed at the expense of the oppressors. If the mechanism for achieving this equality is the State, then there is a perverse incentive for everyone to identify with an oppressed group and constantly signal their status in order to receive State benefits.

** I would wager that private groups working to resettle refugees would do a much better job than the government in identifying people with real needs. Although it is very discriminatory, relatively wealthy young fit males are not what most people have in mind when it comes to providing humanitarian asylum. This isn't to say males, young people, or wealthy people are not deserving of a peaceful life and asylum, but it is the general Christian, and therefore Western practice, that women, children, the elderly, and the sick be taken care of first. There would still be opportunities for these migrants as businesses looking for cheap labor could benefit and they could support their families back in Syria much the same way Filipino laborers in the Middle East or Mexicans in the US do.

*** Not that the particular opinion of the author matters, but here it is. There have been violent extremists in every religion and ideology. The question, at least from a libertarian standpoint, is whether a particular religion or ideology fundamentally rejects violent aggression. In that regard we can see that Mohammad was essentially a religious warlord for several years and that the formative early years of Islam were dominated by military conquest. Perhaps only the old Norse religion glorifies conquest more.

It is much more difficult, then, to make the case that Islam, or the Norse religion for that matter, is a religion of peace - particularly as compared with Christianity or Buddhism. Of course atheist Dawkins/Hitchens types who believe religion in itself is dangerous might reject any religious adherent, regardless of creed. But even the most staunchest atheist should appreciate the distinction just as the religious should distinguish between an atheist hippie and a Maoist revolutionary when it comes to the non-aggression principle.

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