Immigration Enthusiasm In Action: The Case Of FEE by Greg Pavlik

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Immigration Enthusiasm In Action: The Case Of FEE

BREAKING NEWS!! Skousen Confirmed As FEE Head!

Peter Brimelow writes: a little bird suggests that the well-known libertarian looney immigration enthusiast and investment letter writer Mark Skousen might possibly metamorphosize into the head of FEE. I’ve known Mark Skousen for years – I even blurbed his book Scrooge Investing. (“Mark Skousen’s tenacious and hard-driving personality is the wonder of the investment world,” which he characteristically took as a compliment.)  And, with my usual forbearance, I tolerantly featured him in my recent, rather depressing, FORBES story on the economic outlook from an Austrian perspective. But Greg Pavlik’s classic February 1998 article, reprinted from the late, great Rothbard-Rockwell Report by the kind permission of Lew Rockwell is a chilling inside look at Skousen as immigration enthusiast in conspiratorial action  - complete with the trademark enthusiast methodology of  “anger, evasion, lies, and insults…an emotional, as opposed to an intellectual, commitment to mass immigration.”

I hope Skousen gets FEE. For one thing, I presume he’ll invite me to another debate, complete with FEEs. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist!) More importantly, as Trotsky said, worse is better.  Immigration policy is introducing a great and irrepressible conflict into American political life.  Eventually all institutions will have to stand up and be counted - and if necessary blamed.

By  Greg Pavlik

VDARE’s Libertarians and Immigration Archive

Strange things have been going on in the lily-white town of Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Don Boudreaux, the new president of the Foundation for Economic Education, has made the venerable institution an advocate of unrestricted third-world immigration of all things. And this while it is being projected that by the year 2050, people of European descent (already a minority of 15% globally), will become a minority in the United States.

Now is the time for asking hard questions about the implications of this cataclysmic change, brought about by our own government. As Ludwig von Mises reminded us, liberty was the child of Western civilization and the chief division between the high civilizations of East and West: what separates us “is first of all the fact that the peoples of the East never conceived the idea of liberty.

In 1927, as Ralph Raico points out in the Spring 1996 issue of the The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Mises dealt with the peculiar problem of multi-racial immigration to Australia. “Fears of whites being “reduced to a minority in their own country,” he wrote, and thereby being subjected to persecution by new arrivals from China and Malaysia, are “justified.” Mises concluded that such immigration can be tolerated provided there are massive amounts of uninhabited land, no welfare or government intervention, and separate local political authorities for separate peoples. Even from Mise’s perspective, then, the proper libertarian attitude toward immigration (as versus free trade) depends in part on time, place, and existing government policy.

But at the new FEE, these are not considerations. Boudreaux began the shift in the October 1997 “Notes from FEE,” a message included in each issue of the Freeman. He seeks to deal with an argument put forward by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (oddly, never identified) questioning the left-libertarian line on unrestricted immigration. It is not my intention to deal with Boudreaux’s arguments, or lack thereof, in any depth; interested readers may consult David Gordon’s excellent commentary in the winter 1997 issue of The Mises Review.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the October piece contains some odd claims: for example, that the government may do nothing to restrict “speech” of any kind on public property. To illustrate by example, when I was a student at Penn, a nudist organization demanded the right to walk around unclothed in public on “free-speech” grounds. Is this ipso facto their right? Must the public really endure a man shouting obscenities at the top of his lungs in the public square? A smelly bum in the children’s section of the public library, as in the famous New Jersey case? Panhandling on street corners? Or someone setting off an air horn at a civic-center symphony concert?

Worse than providing a weak argument, Boudreaux’s piece was couched in ad hominem attacks on those whom he criticizes for their views on immigration. Those “who claim to be friends of liberty” include who? Murray Rothbard, Ralph Raico, Hans Hoppe, John Hospers? Or Peter Brimelow, who, I would wager, has done as much as anyone to promote free markets through his Forbes articles?

In discussions at FEE, Edmund Opitz, the last Grand Old Man of the organization, expressed his own opposition to current trends favoring massive third-world immigration. Does he deserve to be mocked? The Freeman had a standing policy avoiding this type of thing, but apparently the policy is suspended for immigration enthusiasts.

Boudreaux also dedicated his December 1997 “Notes from FEE” to unrestricted immigration. By Boudreaux’s own account, the publication was flooded with responses to his initial article, with only a single letter in agreement.

The second piece is extremely patronizing. Boudreaux suggests that a hypothetical “Juan” seeking employment in the United States is hurting no one and so no discussion is necessary. In fact, he shows no concern at all for the framework in which the abnormal human condition of relative freedom is possible, while advancing a policy recommendation that would, by any objective measure, make the country much less free.

I was particularly interested in Boudreaux’s articles as I was involved in a number of internal discussions at FEE with respect to immigration policy. While associate editor of the Freeman, I wrote favorably of immigration restrictions in the magazine.

One thing that is true of FEE in the past: it was never committed to an ideology of open borders. While I was there, I gained consent from Hans F. Sennholz, then president, to publish a favorable review of Brimelow’s Alien Nation. Sennholz’s own view, repeated on several occasions, was that as long as the welfare state was intact, lifting immigration quotas and barriers was beyond consideration. This was also Milton Friedman’s position.

I mention my former position at FEE for a reason. Several times during my years in Irvington, there was an effort to push the open-borders line through the Freeman from a small number of writers associated with more Jacobinical wings of the libertarian movement. The September 1995 Freeman was one of the few issues that ranked exceptional, marred only by a dismissal of Alien Nation in Mark Skousen’s column.

The Skousen article was short and gave no indication that he had read the book. Instead of dealing with any issue of substance, he mentioned that he had debated Brimelow and presented him with a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Of course, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of the French to symbolize both republican values and the friendship between France and America, and its actual name is Liberty Enlightening the World, a great Old Right sentiment implying non-intervention. No one thought of it as the statue of immigration [Click here for James Fulford on the Statue of Liberty Myth] until the “wretched refuse” poem of the leftist Emma Lazarus was affixed to its base.

The December 1995 issue, edited by Pete Boettke, an economist then at NYU, had an article in favor of open borders and an article opposed to the idea of open borders by Tom Woods of Columbia University; a kind of libertarian debate. In the same issue I had a review of Brimelow’s book, where I endorsed the need for restricting large-scale immigration from the third world. Skousen went berserk. After calling FEE and rudely haranguing me for nearly forty-five minutes (at which time he accused me of personally attacking him by praising another author’s book (!) and denounced Brimelow and me as racists), he called Sennholz, in an effort to strongarm Freeman editorial policy and to get me fired. Skousen went on to attack me, Woods, Boettke (who finally hung up on Skousen), and book editor Bob Batemarco to a host of others. That was my first insight into how the immigration issue is handled by the open-borders crowd.

This was followed by some uncorrected errors in the Freeman. The first that I recall explicitly occurred in the June 1996 issue, edited by Jim Powell of the Cato Institute. Powell conducted an interview with Paul Johnson and used leading questions and artful editing to make it seem as though Johnson believed in unrestricted immigration. But at almost the same time, Johnson was arguing in the London Spectator that all non-white immigration to Britain should be halted. He upped the ante by suggesting that those already present should be paid to leave the country. A noted libertarian scholar wrote to the magazine pointing this out, but his call for a correction was ignored.

In the December 1996 Freeman, a biographical sketch of Frank Chodorov was published by a young Catoite named Aaron Steelman. In his article, Steelman makes a specific claim: “For Chodorov, a noninterventionist foreign policy was incompatible with protectionism or a restrictionist stand on immigration…Noninterventionism, free trade, and open borders belonged in the same package. To accept one part of the package while rejecting the others was not only to give in to the state, but to flirt with nativism.” Steelman goes on to quote Chodorov against protectionism, and to somehow suggest that Chodorov really meant to be speaking about immigration.

What’s the problem here? Jeff Tucker of the Mises Institute did a literature search of everything that Chodorov wrote and could find nothing supporting “open borders.”  Instead, he found that Chodorov specifically defended nativism as a bulwark against war. More importantly, Chodorov opposed the immigration of communists, on the grounds that they would be subversive of conditions favorable to liberty. This is precisely the argument made by many libertarian critics of third-world immigration, just crafted for different circumstances. While Chodorov may have been sympathetic to old-time, go-slow immigration (he wrote favorably of Irish and Jewish immigrants and their assimilation into the market economy), his opposition to communist immigration is incompatible with an “open border.”

When Tucker sent a letter to the Freeman asking for a correction, nothing was done. Why? One of the reasons may be the pattern of the immigration enthusiasts: anger, evasion, lies, and insults. All the markings of an emotional, as opposed to intellectual, commitment to mass immigration.

It is more than sad to see FEE joined with the hard left, which is not so naïve in its understanding of the real effects of mass immigration since 1965. For years, the left has promoted these immigration trends precisely as a means of undermining the bourgeois foundations of American liberty that it views as irredeemably corrupt.

To reiterate what even a casual observer knows: these new arrivals from the third world generally vote for statist policies and along ethnic lines; agitate for entrenching affirmative action; benefit from affirmative action at others’ expense; back redistribution of all sorts; commit crimes disproportionate to their numbers; and add to the welfare burden disproportionate to their numbers. All of these are empirical facts that must be taken into account, especially when considering the far-flung idea of erasing the border altogether, which not even the far-left dares suggest.

The libertarian Old Right, of which FEE was a part, was never in favor of open borders as a matter of policy. Immigration in general was simply not an issue. During the period between the 1920s and the 1960s, immigration was slowed considerably. The indexes of various Old Right journals (including the Freeman) show little in the way of commentary on immigration in and of itself.

Why care about this particular case of open border pushing? Well, consider George Nash’s suggestion in The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America that at FEE “the quiet, almost obscure, and highly individualistic origins of postwar libertarian conservatism become apparent.”

And, of course, FEE served as a beacon when the CIA-connected Buckley founded National Review, whose destruction of the Old Right fit in perfectly with the aims of the agency he so loyally served. Contrast the Cold War fervor of NR with Read’s opposition to the Korean War. (I recommend the anti-war collection published by FEE under Sennholz, Leviathan at War, edited by Opitz; it contains Read’s piece, “Conscience on the Battlefield,” as well as some other great right wing anti-war essays.)

Does the open-borders crusade mark a permanent break from FEE’s roots in the Old Right? That would be a shame. The FEE staff is great. The managing editor of the Freeman, Beth Hoffman, is one of the most decent persons I’ve known. Bettina Bien Greaves, ever-knowledgeable Misesian and wife of the late Percy Greaves, still maintains an office at FEE. And, of course, what a legacy.

The tying of FEE to the National Council of La Raza line on immigration must be reconsidered, if only in the interests of the organization’s own stated ideals.

Greg Pavlik was Associate Editor of The Freeman and he edited Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn (FEE, 1995).

E mail Mark Skousen at

August 24, 2001

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