Free Trade Does Not Imply Immigration— John C. Calhoun
January 20, 2004, 04:00 AM
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[Previously by Marcus Epstein: More MALDEF Madness—But Federal Judges Aren`t Immune]

Libertarians often claim that immigration is simply a corollary of free trade. Thus the Future of Freedom Foundation has published a collection of essays called The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration and the Cato Institute`s Center for Trade Policy constantly churns out articles promoting a less restrictive immigration policy.

But Hans Herman Hoppe, in his article "The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration", reprinted in his book, Democracy the God that Failed, has demolished this claim that open immigration and free trade are natural complements.  [VDARE.COM note: see also Professor Hoppe`s latest article "Natural Order, The State, And The Immigration Problem."] He wrote:

"From the outset, it must be emphasized that not even the most restrictive immigration policy or the most exclusive form of segregationism has anything to do with a rejection of free trade and the adoption of protectionism. From the fact that one does not want to associate with or live in the neighborhood composed of Mexicans, Haitians, Chinese, Koreans, Germans, Catholics, Moslems, Hindus, etc., it does not follow that one does not want to trade with them from a distance."

In other words consumer goods, unlike immigrants, do not vote, receive government benefits, commit crimes, use up natural resources, vote, create urban sprawl etc.

One great statesman to realize this was Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Calhoun was unquestionably one of the most outstanding intellects of his age. The founder of modern libertarianism, Murray Rothbard, called him "one of America`s most brilliant political theorists."

Today Calhoun is best known for his support for States Rights and his unfortunate and supremely politically incorrect defense of what he famously called the "peculiar institution" of chattel slavery. Many argue that Calhoun`s support for slavery and his strong sectionalism helped lead to disunion and Civil War. But Calhoun did not see as inevitable the secession that followed his death. He wrote extensively on the importance of citizenship and nationality to maintain a healthy and voluntary union of states.

And there have been few greater champions of free trade than Calhoun in American history. Calhoun bitterly opposed the protective tariff throughout his career. His famous call for nullification in the South Carolina Exposition was a reaction to the federal tariff.

Calhoun wrote to the great British free trader, Richard Cobden that,

"I regard free trade, as involving considerations far higher, than mere commercial advantages, as great as they are. It is, in my opinion, emphatically the cause of civilization and peace."

But, unlike many free traders today, Calhoun did not support open borders. Before 1875 immigration policy was determined by the States, so he did not have much say over the numbers of immigrants. However, he eloquently discoursed on the importance of citizenship and the problems caused by introducing an alien population into America.

Today it is quite common to proclaim the civil rights of immigrants. Immigration enthusiasts like George W. Bush have gone as far as calling illegal aliens citizens. Calhoun recognized how self evidently absurd this concept is.

"Nothing is more difficult than the definition, or even description, of so complex an idea [what defines a citizen]… But though we may not be able to say, with precision, what a citizen is, we may say, with the utmost certainty, what he is not. He is not an alien. Alien and citizen are correlative terms and stand in contradistinction to each other. They of course, cannot coexist. They are, in fact, so opposite in their nature, that we conceive of the one but in contradistinction to the other."

Calhoun also recognized the problem of divided loyalties among citizens. He pondered,

"Suppose a war should be declared between the United States and the country to which the alien belongs—suppose, for instance, that South Carolina should confer the right of voting on alien subjects of Great Britain and that war should be declared between the countries; what in such event would be the condition of that portion of our voters?"

While Calhoun was an ardent champion of State`s Rights, he recognized that, because immigration affected the entire republic, it was the role of the Federal Government to create naturalization standards:

"States might naturalize foreigners, and could confer on them the right of exercising the elective franchisee, before they could be sufficiently informed of the nature of our institutions or interested in their preservation."

In this case Calhoun was speaking largely of British immigrants, who, as he ably demonstrated in his work A Disquisition on Government, came from the country from which our political traditions were inherited. Today, the majority of our immigrants come from Third World countries that are oblivious or hostile to the American political traditions. Calhoun recognized that introducing a completely alien population to the United States would have dire effects.

Calhoun complemented A Disquisition on Government with another book A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, in which he examined the nature of the American Union. In this disquisition he recognizes one of the great paradoxes of the American federal system. Calhoun believed that citizenship was based on allegiance. If the states were sovereign, as he thought, how could one`s allegiance be given to both the state and to the federal government?

"For it is clear, if the States still retain their sovereignty as separate and independent communities, the allegiance and obedience of the citizens of each would be due to their respective States; and that the government of the United States and those of the several States would stand as equals and co-ordinates in their respective spheres; and, instead of being united socially, their citizens would be politically connected through their respective States. On the contrary, if they have, by ratifying the constitution, divested themselves of their individuality and sovereignty, and merged themselves into one great community or nation, it is equally clear, that the sovereignty would reside in the whole — or what is called the American people; and that allegiance and obedience would be due to them."

Calhoun conclusion: because of America`s common stock—i.e. predominantly Anglo Saxon and Protestant—it was possible to have a loyalty to both one`s State as well as to America, despite the emergence of local communities. But this was only possible when there was a homogeneous population and somewhat of a consensus about the political values.

During the Mexican American war, there was a debate about whether to only annex the largely uninhabited territory north of the Rio Grande or attempt to conquer and annex all of Mexico. Calhoun was horrified with the latter idea—because it would have placed an alien population into this country.

The United States, he said, had never "incorporated into the Union any but the Caucasian race."

According to Thomas Ritchie, then editor of the Richmond Enquirer, Calhoun`s principle concern was that annexing Mexico would leave the United States "with a population of seven or eight million people, who are unfit to participate in the benefits of our free institutions." Calhoun was also worried that if the purpose of the war was "to destroy [Mexico`s] nationality," then America would inherit a population that was openly hostile to America.

Fortunately, Calhoun won this argument and the Mexican-American border is still on the Rio Grande— what`s left of it.

However, we also have a federal immigration policy that Calhoun probably could not even imagine. Millions of aliens, many of whom are still loyal to Mexico and bitter over the land they ceded to America in 1848, enter our country legally and illegally. This population is much higher than the entire population of Mexico was in Calhoun`s day.

The effect they could have on our American political system could be worse than he ever feared.

Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is an undergraduate majoring in history at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where he is an editor of the conservative newspaper, The Remnant. A selection of his articles can be seen here.