In recent days we have seen a lot of hand-wringing, particularly from the Western liberal-left media, about the influx of refugees into Europe from Syria. On the one hand they say we must "do something", on the other it is clear they don't like the idea of letting such people into their own countries. In fact, modern so-called liberals tend not to be liberal at all when it comes to immigration. This is not surprising because immigration poses a dilemma for Western democratic socialism.
Marx's ideal of international socialist solidarity has morphed in Western countries into a highly nationalistic socialism that is all about preserving the privilege and exclusivity of the domestic welfare state. Western socialists pretend to be concerned with the victims of repression in countries like Syria but actually they see such people as a threat to their increasingly fragile world. They realise that each immigrant is a challenge to the carefully constructed power balance in Western societies between the increasing unproductive majority of the population and the productive minority who support them. Unproductive immigrants add to the burden on a base of taxpayers already staggering under the weight of welfare demands, and productive immigrants merely serve to show how unnecessary and counterproductive much of the modern welfare state really is.
The reason I am truly liberal on immigration is because I am a humanist. Socialists try to paint themselves as humanists, but a true humanist is someone who values human potential. A true humanist sees immigrants for their opportunity to add to our society as producers, not as victims who only ever consume limited resources.
A guest post by Alex Nowraseth from the Cato Institute on Not PC's blog proposes building a wall around the welfare system to exclude immigrants. Personally, I think this is morally indefensible. Are immigrants merely slaves to the indolent native-born? The only moral solution is to reduce, or better abolish, the welfare state so that the productive of society, whether immigrants or native-born, are unshackled to pursue their own interests.
The Statue of Liberty was inscribed with the famous words from Emma Lazarus' poem "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and America lived up to this exhortation by absorbing more than 30 million immigrants between 1850 and 1920. It was only a comparatively free and capitalist society like the United States was during that period that could afford to absorb so many from those huddled masses. Americans understood back then that immigrants bring with them in their minds and bodies the opportunities they create. They don't need to be given anything other than life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue their own happiness.