My new article on “Immigration and Native Economic Freedom”

Statue of Liberty.

A draft version of a new paper on “Immigration and Native Economic Freedom” (to be published in a symposium at Quarterly review of public affairs) is now available on SSRN. Here is the summary :

Much of the debate over the justice of immigration restrictions rightly focuses on their impact on potential migrants. For their part, restrictionists often focus on the potentially harmful effects of immigration on residents of receiving countries. This article explores this longstanding debate by focusing on the ways in which immigration restrictions harm native people, particularly by undermining their economic freedom. The idea that such effects exist is far from new. But this article examines them in more detail and illustrates their truly massive scale. It covers both the “negative” libertarian view of economic freedom and the more “positive” version advanced by left-liberal political theorists.

The first part focuses on libertarian approaches to economic freedom. It shows that immigration restrictions severely restrict the negative economic freedom of natives, probably more than any other government policy adopted by liberal democracies. This is true both for libertarian views that value this freedom for its own sake and for those that value it for more instrumental reasons, such as the promotion of human autonomy and the ability of individuals to realize their personal goals and projects.

In Part 2, I discuss left-liberal “positive” theories of economic freedom, which focus primarily on improving individuals’ access to important goods and services and enabling them to have the necessary resources. to lead an independent life. Some also focus on expanding human capabilities in general, or place particular emphasis on improving the economic prospects of the poor. Here too, migration restrictions impose significant costs on natives. Since migration can sometimes harm the economic prospects of natives, the problem is best addressed by “keyhole solutions” that address specific problems by means other than restricting migration.

Finally, Part III describes how to deal with situations where the potentially harmful side effects of migration could undermine the negative or positive economic freedom of natives, without actually restricting migration. I have addressed these issues in more detail in previous work, and here I provide only a brief summary of my approach and its relevance to issues of economic freedom.

I’m looking for an alternative to “natives” as a concise, non-clunky way to refer to “current citizens of destination countries”. I welcome any suggestions readers might offer. Email me if you have one!


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