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Ep. 183 Ben Powell Argues that Immigrants Don’t Threaten Liberty

Standard economic analysis suggests that even large-scale immigration doesn’t hurt native citizens economically. But couldn’t the newcomers change the culture and political climate to hurt liberty? In his latest book, economist Ben Powell argues that this too is a baseless fear.

Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. clort on 02/28/2021 at 7:25 AM

    A more appropriate title for the book would be: “The Economics of Genocide”.

    The targeted replacement of an ethnic majority – in this case European nations – is the current and stated policy of the globalist elites.

    By common definition, including that of the UN, this constitutes genocide.

    It’s understood in every other case that this constitutes a fight for existence – but in the case of white people; we are expected to “shut up and take it”.

    In this podcast, an understandably nervous Powell gives his economic perspective on ‘why there just might possibly be some downsides to genocide.”

    I feel compelled to inform readers that the engineers of this genocide will be no more swayed by Powell’s correct observations about economic harms than the engineers of the Iraq war would have been by observations that bombing campaigns bring economic harms.

    In their words: “We think the price is worth it.”

    • Will on 03/02/2021 at 2:46 PM

      Don’t be a moron. People voluntarily marrying people isn’t genocide and your attempt to pearl clutch over the fact that your daughter might marry a Chinese man doesn’t work on people who even attempt to think rationally.

      • clort on 03/09/2021 at 2:43 AM

        A voluntary marrying is not what is happening.

        We are seeing a politically coordinated and funded and incentivized mass migration of nonwhite people into white countries.

        This is a fact, and it is a fact that such politically organized ethnic displacements are defined to be genocide.

        You have not refuted this fact because you can not refute it. It is a fact.

        Emotions have nothing to do with it.

  2. Immigrant troglodyte on 03/01/2021 at 3:34 AM

    Great episode! Always fun to hear Ben, and this strengthened my belief that anyone with a job offer who can pass a criminal background check should be allowed in.

    What’s with the qualifying stuff for your listeners all the time, Bob? Sounds like you’re under the impression we’re all immigrant-hating troglodytes.

    I can anecdotally second Ben’s impression that the immigrants who come here are way more freedom-loving than the average of their origin country.

    I moved to this great country as an immigrant, and I think Ron Paul is a socialist. I know a guy who got amnesty from Reagan back in the day, and you won’t find anyone who loves “President Reegan” more than this man. He’s a business owner, he loves capitalism, and he’s Republican to the bone.

    • Will on 03/02/2021 at 2:48 PM

      Well, to be fair to Bob, at least one of the other commenters on here is an immigrant-hating troglodyte.

      • Immigrant troglodyte on 03/03/2021 at 5:56 AM

        Point taken 🙂

    • clort on 03/09/2021 at 3:03 AM

      There are a number of issues that this post attempts to gloss over or distract from.

      The first being: as Rothbard said “the ideal of liberty, expressed in actual governance was unique to europeans”

      We are all aware of how few whites are adherents to the liberal / libertarian ideals, which are the foundation of prospertiy.

      But look at the demographics of any libertarian movement. There is something relating genes to ideals and behavior, and this is not surprising. It is well documented.

      • clort on 03/09/2021 at 3:09 AM

        I may have been unclear. Diluting whites to a minority status will ensure that no liberty can ensue in the west.

        This is not to excuse how horrid the white (adamic) people can be. It’s just that the spirit of those who carry the seed of yaweh is not to be found in the other races. I didn’t make the world this way. This is just how it is.

        Look, honestly, at the history and the facts.
        I hope that’s clear enough.

        • clort on 03/09/2021 at 5:40 PM

          That being said, i’d like people of all races to learn to love liberty. I don’t want to be a racist.

          But look at the facts. It’s white people. Libertarian party is like 95% white. Did you ever think about that?

          I just obey reality.

  3. will on 03/03/2021 at 4:29 PM

    In the open border scenario are people allowed to freely police their own borders? Organize communities that restrict movement to only select people? Create service providers dedicated to local border enforcement? If not, then we’re talking about anarcho-tyranny, law without order. Just like abolishing the police without allowing the creation of private police.

    In a private property society freedom of movement is not guarnteed; it is conditional on limitations set by property owners. Whereas the choice of open-borders vs closed-borders equates to a coercive opening or a coercive closing of everyone’s property (to some extent). Neither is libertarian, of course, but at least locking things up preserves things in the meantime.

    • will on 03/03/2021 at 4:34 PM

      Expanding on previous comment. Bob, isn’t there a parallel to draw here between open borders and your purge episode where there’s no law enforcement, but also no private police??

      A libertarian society is a private property society, where private parties determine to what extent to open or close their doors. Freedom of movement is not guaranteed; it is conditional on limitations set by property owners. The current debate on border policy involves two extreme positions, which equate to a coercive opening or a coercive closing of everyone’s property. Clearly, neither position is consistent with a libertarianism as understood properly as a private property society.
      The private property society naturally eliminates the possibility of a state, and therefore eliminates the possibility of a state enforced border. From this understanding, many libertarians have made the intuitive, yet superficial, conclusion that NO borders equates to open borders. But a deeper analysis developed by Rothbard and Hoppe, reveals the opposite.
      Before going into detail on the border question, consider a related problem of police. In the libertarian society, the traditional state provided police service no longer exists. Would libertarians therefore support abolishing the police in our current society? No. Not without first establishing the right of free enterprise to enter the policing business. Banning police without allowing for free market alternatives results in a situation much like the recent autonomous zones in Seattle and Portland. The situation has been aptly described as anarcho-tyranny (law without order). No service of police is provided, but people are actively prevented from forming their own police service, and the outcome is chaos.
      In the free libertarian society, people would naturally seek protection services to protect their property from trespassers. Protection agencies would emerge, and as these agencies grow, they would likely realize it is easier to focus their attention on certain areas. In particular, they might notice a lot of non desirables and criminals stem from a location formerly known as the Us-Mexican border. They would naturally focus their attention there to nip in the bud the potential for tresspassers later on. A de facto border has a been established. Of course, those living on the border may prefer a more egalitarian ethos, and not cooperate with the protection services. No problem, the de facto border would simply move to other side of this individual’s property.
      Regardless, the point isn’t to predict exactly how such protection services would function, but point out that the absence of a state enforced border does not mean no border or unrestrained freedom to enter the country. There would be many obstacles to entry.
      Now returning to the question of a state controlled open border policy. Such a policy does not equate to anything like “hands-off” on the part of the state. In our current situation, it would be more aptly described as the subsidized mass migration and forced integration of the third world into American society. Obviously spelled out in such language it doesn’t sound very libertarian. But more to the point, there is one enormous difference between this policy and that of the libertarian no-border policy. The people have no right to control the border themselves. Just like abolishing the police without first establishing the right for free enterprise police, we arrive at a situation of anarcho-tyrrany.
      In short, the border question slides between two extreme positions: coercive opening and coercive closing of everyone’s property. Neither is libertarian, of course, but at least locking things up preserves things in the meantime.

  4. Tel on 03/03/2021 at 11:10 PM

    Some interesting arguments but I detect a few hints that suggest Ben Powell is not very confident in what he puts forward. The title of the book is clearly an appeal to emotion and humanitarian instincts … nothing wrong with being humanitarian, but putting an emotive title on an economic argument creates uncomfortable doublethink. The other hint was that Powell felt the need to throw in some “old Jedi mind tricks” partway through … a good argument should stand up without needing to make vague accusations that the other side is simply making everything up.

    I remember in 2019 we had all the Democratic Party presidential candidates lining up to declare their policy of free healthcare for “undocumented” immigrants. Was I making that up?

    When you add up all of the 20th Century, California Congress representatives had roughly equal split between the two parties … and yet they have had a Democratic Party Governor for the past 20 years, and two Democrat Federal Senators for the past 30 years, and the current split in the House is about 80% Democrat. Am I making that up? I looked on this thing called “Ballotpedia” but I’m willing to look elsewhere if other people have better links. Kind of appears like there has been a political shift … might be merely my bad eyesight.

    It’s become a must-have position for Democratic presidential candidates that illegal immigrants deserve access to government-sponsored health care. At one of the debates, all 10 candidates on stage raised hands when asked if they backed the idea.

    But the candidates have different ideas about how to get there.

    Sen. Bernard Sanders, father of “Medicare for All,” says he would cover illegal immigrants through his fully government-run system.

    Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden at the debate agreed that illegal immigrants should get coverage — “It’s the humane thing to do,” he said — but later slimmed down that commitment, saying they should be allowed to buy into Obamacare and should be able to get emergency coverage. That latter part is already the law.

    Oh look, apparently others can see that same things I see. How about that?

    In the case of Israel I agree that there was some pro-freedom self-selection bias there and that was caused by a bunch of political and religious issues. This does not invalidate Ben Powell’s argument because the existence of such self-selection is part of what he is arguing. Of course, Israel still has a strong collectivist and authoritarian tendency even today. People I know who have visited there told me they spent an awful lot of time being interviewed by authorities and needing to account for exactly where they went, who they talked to … even to the point of needing to provide receipts from restaurants and hotels. That doesn’t sound like my idea of freedom … but economically Israel does very well, they respect the right to do business, and perhaps there is justification for their strict national security arrangements, when you consider they live in a “rough neighborhood” and so on.

    Once you have accepted that self-selection bias does happen (and I think we all agree on that much) then by implication certain government policy can just as easily create an anti-freedom selection bias. It’s entirely possible that the Democrats will implement their free healthcare policy … do you think that offering taxpayer funded subsidies tends to attract a better or worse class of people? Suppose you could somehow hypnotize Nancy Pelosi such that she always told the truth (totally hypothetical) and you asked here about the effect of this policy on immigration, what do you think she would say?

    By the way, I hardly think that the Republican Party are particularly freedom loving, but they are perhaps a fraction better than the Democrats. This leads to another relevant question … if we want to be honest with ourselves, lets look at all the countries that might be described as “Western Liberal Democracy” in the traditional sense of what that means: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Spain, India, of course Israel, add others if you want … what would be the current trajectory of political freedom in those countries? More freedom or less freedom? Consider free speech, which is under attack everywhere, the right to self defense, even freedom of association.

    “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

    ― George Orwell

    When I was growing up, the working class kid down the street did have a rifle on his bedroom wall, and boxes of hollowpoint ammo sitting on the shelf. You won’t see that in ANY Australian house today … and I may be old, but I’m not that old. New Zealanders were recently disarmed, without any public debate, Canadians are being disarmed. The people of the London are finding themselves getting stabbed more and more regularly … heck they have acid attacks over there, drive by and throw acid in the face … who would have even imagined such a thing 30 years ago? Where are the famous London Bobbies? They have put the police resources to work monitoring Facebook and then going around intimidating anyone who says something politically incorrect. They call this a “non-crime hate incident” and these are much higher priority than the street violence … unless you think the people who live there are making this stuff up. There are now cameras on every train station in Australia, not one or two but lots … every single walkway through the ticket gates has an individual camera pointed right at you to record each person’s movements. There are cameras right through the trains, and every bus. The tickets are coded to your identity also, and almost all of the old cash vending machines have been removed as they gradually lean on people to make it impossible to travel anonymously.

    You want more evidence? Explain why Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson couldn’t even say the words “illegal immigrant” … too afraid to offend someone because that concept “rule of law” is such an offensive thing. When did we start this business of pretending that some people get to break the law while other people must obey the law … but hey look over there because those gas lights are not getting dimmer … all your imagination. In London recently they had real police in front of a giant billboard with the words “BEING OFFENSIVE IS AN OFFENCE” … am I making this up? Why don’t you look it up. Those words were in fact a lie, from a legal perspective there is no such offense … does that kind of thing sound like freedom? Would the classical liberals have supported that?

    What the heck is happening to us? Where is it coming from? All of the political parties, both nominally “left” and “right” are drifting in the same totalitarian direction … if you can’t explain that then I would say there might be a piece of the story missing.

    • Tyler on 03/20/2021 at 8:04 PM

      The title of the book is using emotional language from the opposition, and countering it with “The political Economy of Immigration and Institutions.” Isn’t this actually the opposite of what you suggested in your first paragraph.

      “…Powell felt the need to throw in some “old Jedi mind tricks” partway through … a good argument should stand up without needing to make vague accusations that the other side is simply making everything up.”

      Isn’t this itself just a vague accusation that the other side is simply making everything up?

      “What the heck is happening to us? Where is it coming from? All of the political parties, both nominally “left” and “right” are drifting in the same totalitarian direction … if you can’t explain that then I would say there might be a piece of the story missing.”

      I don’t think it’s a mystery where this is coming from. And no faction that I’m aware of believes that illegal immigrants are masterminding it. White elites in Academia are responsible for the woke ideology and white guilt that deifies ethnic minorities, and bends politicians to its influence. Depending on how deep you think the rabbit hole goes, you might also blame various powerful financial interests backing the ideology – almost all of them domestic.

      • Tel on 04/05/2021 at 11:47 AM

        00:23:30 “People have made a case against immigration based on a particular fear without giving any evidence for it.”

        Is that a sufficiently specific reference for you?

        00:28:56 “The new economic case for immigration restrictions is an empirical conjecture; and an empirical conjecture requires empirical evidence. The people who make this case have provided none .”

        Seems on the face of it like he is accusing people of making stuff up. Dunno how else anyone would interpret it, but perhaps he was being ironic somehow.

        I did about 10 minutes research on changes in voting patterns in California over the past 100 years and that looks like evidence … as already explained above. Somehow I doubt I’m the first person to have done that … a very quick search about reveals plenty of similar observations, like this one:

        Back in August, Graham had said: “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

        Although I would not rank Senator Lindsey Graham as an economic genius, and could be he was making a flip remark intended as a throwaway there, but CNBC sure latched onto it and gloated over it. When I see that sort of stuff I’m a lot more tempted to believe my lying eyes instead of someone who tells me “no evidence, no evidence”. These guys would not be making a big deal over it unless the issue mattered to them.

        On the question of who is the mastermind, I’m sure I never put forward a position on that, and since I have no idea I’m not about to put forward a position either. Not sure who or what you are refuting when you say, “no faction that I’m aware of believes that illegal immigrants are masterminding it” but it’s kind of irrelevant, because the outcome is what matters not who thought of the idea. Clearly the Democratic Party has elements of this in their platform and strategy, check the court case “Trump v. New York, No. 20-366 (Supreme Court).” from December 2020, and they are fighting over whether only legal residents and citizens should be counted in the Census for House Apportionment purposes … why would they even fight the case unless they had something to gain?

        Since I do believe in biological evolution and also the concept of a self organizing free market, I don’t feel any need to come up with any central planning “mastermind” in order for each step in the process to be driven by someone’s self interest. Political parties want to win … and they will do what they believe is necessary in order to win. The Democrats like to give away free stuff and buy votes that way, and you would have to presume that various demographic groups can correctly judge what is a good price to sell their votes at … doesn’t seem to be anything that requires an evil mastermind. If those alignments of self-interest result in anti-freedom policies then that’s exactly what you get … given that there’s a clear shift happening right in front of our eyes, that would tend to imply that empirical evidence does exist. Am I missing anything here?

  5. Knoxie Davis-Seattle Confederate on 03/15/2021 at 10:47 AM

    Every line coming out of that guy’s mouth is retarded. I’m going to do a video response to this on my YouTube. Bob, my dad bragged about how you used to whoop his ass in bulletin boards decades ago. I’ve listened to two of your podcasts now and I’m disappointed.

    • Robert Murphy on 03/15/2021 at 8:25 PM

      You’re disappointed in me or your dad?

      • Knoxie Davis-Seattle Confederate on 03/21/2021 at 9:49 AM

        I’m so sorry Bob! I see now that I didn’t write my comment very clearly. Of course you’re confused! To answer your question, I (Knoxie Davis) am disappointed in YOU.
        Your “pushback” for your buddy Powell was so weak that you basically served as a strawman, portraying REAL Rothbardians as being incapable of arguing against this garbage.
        To top it off, you even joined in by comparing the reasoning of people who believe in national borders to that of violent eugenicists. (At 44:28 I believe?)

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