Open Borders? Maybe Not. Immigration According to the Austrian School (Part IV)

Open Borders? Maybe Not. Immigration According to the Austrian School (Part IV)

Open Borders? Maybe Not. Immigration According to the Austrian School (Part IV)

Murray Rothbard


“… A wide and diverse range of communities which people can enter if they are admitted, leave if they wish to, shape according to their wishes”.
Robert Nozick (1974: 307)


We have now reached Murray Rothbard and with him, we start our review of Austrians who are against unrestricted immigration. As we said in the introduction, Rothbard work in what regards immigration is indeed seminal. The scheme Rothbard presented in “Nations by consent: Decomposing the nation-state” (1994) will be brilliantly developed by his friend and disciple Hans-Hermann Hoppe. So let us introduce the key points of this Rothbardian blueprint.

Rothbard identifies two problems related to free immigration.

One is the growing amount of welfare subsidies that immigrants receive. The other is the tremendous threat to culture that massive immigration poses. Rothbard fears a scenario similar like the one of Jean Raspail’s The camp of the saints –in which the entire population of India migrates to France and totally destroys the French economy and culture. "I began to rethink my views on immigration when, as the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the cultures and languages of these peoples" (Rothbard 1994:7).

This problematic situation leads him to view the issue of immigration from a perspective: How would immigration be under an anarcho-capitalist situation? That is, all square footage is fully privatized and there is absolutely no public property. “On rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have ‘open borders’ at all” (Rothbard 1994:7).

From this anarcho-capitalist perspective the characteristics of immigration change completely. In a fully privatized land immigration would not be possible unless the potential immigrant is in possession of an invitation and a rental or purchasing real estate contract. Thus the preferences of the community will be respected and true diversity will reign. In this way, ethnical and economical homogeneity or heterogeneity will be decided –not by a central authority– but by different groups of individuals according to their own wishes and exercising their freedom of association. In this way, each and every group will have the opportunity to live by their values and standards.

In the current situation of immigration as a “national problem” dealt by central authorities, Rothbard thinks there is a clear violation of individuals’ wishes and the state is in fact imposing open borders over at least part of the population. “A totally privatized country would be as ‘closed’ as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors” (Rothbard 1994: 7). States, unlike now, should start following the model of total privatization –even if areas of public property remain.


Nozick, R. 
(1974) Anarchy, state, and utopia, Basic Books, New York, 2013

Rothbard, M.
(1994) “Nations by consent: decomposing the nation-state” in Journal of Libertarian Studies (Volume 11), online publication:

* Federico N. Fernández is President of Fundación Internacional Bases (Rosario, Argentina) and a Senior Fellow with the Austrian Economics Center (Vienna, Austria). He is also the president of the Organizing Committee of the International Conference “The Austrian School of Economics in the 21st Century,” which has taken place every two years since 2006 in Rosario (Argentina).

Federico Fernández

Federico Fernández
More about this author

© Values4Europe