By: Jake Schultheis – President of UD College Libertarians
As confirmed by both the Republicans and the Democrats, current immigration laws in the United States are inefficient, complicated and not effective. Workers who want to get into this country legally may have to wait years to do so. Many others find they may never enter legally and under sometimes desperate and dangerous means, do so illegally.
Currently, about 11 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in the United States. Most of these workers do not wish to harm anyone, but only to work and earn money to improve their own lives and those of their families. Some come for other reasons. Recently, there has even been an influx of thousands of children who cross the border to escape the violence of their home countries.
As a general rule, Libertarians believe that as long as a person is not violating the rights of another, he or she should be allowed to do as they please. Libertarians also believe in free markets, where government does not interfere in voluntary negotiations, contracts, production or scientific advancement. However, it should be noted that under no circumstances should an individual’s right be infringed in the name of progress, economic, scientific or otherwise. Any violation of rights, for example, abuse by an employer on employee, should be punished under the fullest extent of the law.
With these rules in mind, Libertarians believe that the movement of individuals and financial capital over borders should be relatively unrestrained. However, Libertarians do support control over our nation’s borders to prevent entry of those individuals who pose a credible threat to our security, health, or property. There should be no priority given to any person due to skill level, family members, wealth or any other factors. Individuals should be free to come and go from this country to work, start a business, purchase products and services, visit family and friends or otherwise. Immigrants who live and work in this country should also be required to pay taxes. Libertarians also believe that a simpler, faster and more efficient path to citizenship should be created for those who wish to become citizens of the United States.
The United States was formed as a nation of immigrants. In fact, many of our nation’s greatest achievements were made by immigrants who came here when migration laws were less strict. Andrew Carnegie modernized the steel industry. Albert Einstein provided advances in science with his discovery of the photoelectric effect and the theory of relativity. By keeping potential immigrants out, we limit the skills, abilities and other assets they bring that could be used to advance our country.
Libertarians believe that employees and employers have the right to freely negotiate the terms and conditions of employment, including employee wages. When the government enacts minimum wage laws, both the employer and employee lose the freedom to fully negotiate. Workers and employers who agree to compensation packages that may provide decreased wages, more benefit or different forms of compensation may not be allowed to do so under the law.
In addition, laws that put a lower limit on compensation, like the minimum wage, can hurt low skill workers. If employers wish to profit from an employee, he or she must not pay that employee more money than he or she produces. Low skill employees who don’t produce as much are put at a disadvantage when the minimum wage is raised above their production level. If a worker must be paid more than he or she produces, then an employer is unlikely to hire such a worker. More productive workers, on the other hand, who manage to keep their jobs will see an increase in their pay if the minimum wage rises above their current wage. The minimum wage helps more productive workers at the expense of less productive workers.
An economic study conducted in 2013 by the Congressional Budget Office, “The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income,” confirms this basic analysis. Libertarians believe that minimum wage policies should be abolished because they limit the freedom of workers and employers to truly negotiate and because they put lower wage workers at economic disadvantages. If low skill workers had the ability to get jobs while earning less than the minimum wage, they would have a better opportunity to learn new skills on the job which they could later use to negotiate higher wages.
It should be noted, however, that Libertarians realize that those making low wages are often times in poverty and in desperate need of assistance. We believe that that assistance should come voluntarily from private charities, individuals and other organizations. As these organizations are private and have limited funds compared with federal and state governments, in order to continue functioning, they must be more efficient, cost effective and less prone to abuse than publicly run welfare programs. They also lack the power of coercion, making them prime candidates for helping those in need without taking money from hard working individuals in the form of taxes.