A Libertarian Perspective on Trump’s Travel Ban

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M. J. July 13, 2017

Supporters of Trump’s Travel Ban may find themselves justifiably filled with satisfaction that our President has taken a bold step to countering, what for many Americans, is a pressing issue of national security. The federal government of recent memory has been enmeshed in an endless cycle of flaccid chattering, far removed from concrete solutions and novel approaches to solving the myriad issues facing the contemporary United States. When people look to a government for action and receive only glib drivel, a leader willing to take action is a welcome change. However, I caution that adoration of this Travel Ban is perhaps premature, and misplaced. Trump’s Travel Ban is a brute force approach to solving a complex and nuanced issue, and may diminish the United States’s global standing while emboldening our enemies. What follows in this writing is a Libertarian analysis of the Travel Ban, potential consequences, and what is perhaps a more useful approach to reforming our immigration and visa policy.

For the liberty minded individual, a ban on anything is likely to evoke a strong sensation of revulsion. This writing seeks to examine Trump’s Travel Ban, through the lens of Libertarian mores. A national origin based Travel Ban is likely to offend two themes central to Libertarian philosophy. First, one residing in a country where travel to the United States is banned, is consigned to an existence in which he or she is likely prohibited from exercising his or her personal agency because of the tyranny and repression, that is likely present in such a state. Secondly, by fanning the flames of discord in the majority Muslim countries in which travel from is banned or severely curtailed, the United States’ position in the world is diminished. This assumes that a nation is more likely to participate in cordial relations with other nations if that nation does not purposefully create rifts and feuds with entire national populations. This Libertarian’s position on foreign policy is that we avoid complex entanglements, often the product of alliances, and lessen the likelihood of global conflict by maintaining a state of cordial cooperation with all nations of the world.

Free exercise of one’s personal agency is a central tenet of Libertarianism, and if a state or social structure exists in which one is not freely able to exercise his or her personal agency, personal liberty is but a distant dream. Providing a substrate that facilitates the growth and exercise of free will, as long as such exercise does not purposefully cause harm to another or impede his or her own exercise of personal agency, is perhaps the highest goal of Libertarianism, regarding how Libertarianism pertains to the individual actor. However, it is important to consider, if a free society is flooded with those who seek to do it harm or impose their restrictive beliefs on others, the ability of those already residing in the country to exercise their agency is severely diminished. Due care must be taken when permitting foreign nationals access to the United States. We should strive to establish an immigration system that accurately assesses the intentions of all those who seek to enter the United States. In short, one who can demonstrate he or she would be an asset to this nation by way of his or her personal merit or an exuberance for western ideals, and an affinity with classical liberalism should always be permitted access to visit or reside in the United States. Those who seek to do this nation harm, defile its liberty, or repress its people should never be granted access. A blanket travel ban is purely an infantile approach to tackling a complex issue, and is perhaps likely to do far more harm than good.

Individuals currently residing in repressive states are likely to suffer because of this travel ban, however, this nation may bear the brunt of the deleterious consequences. If our enemies can point to our actions as a recruiting tool, the consequences of our bad actions are only amplified. Certainly, we want to coexist in a world in which fewer rather than greater numbers of foreign nationals hate us, and alienating entire national populations does not seemingly present as an effective strategy regarding the realization of this goal. Furthermore, it is likely that bad actors exist in the countries impacted by the travel ban, however it is equally likely that similar bad actors currently reside in all nations on earth. I suggest that most of the people caught in the snare of Trump’s Travel Ban, are no less likely to pose a threat to the United States than the average United States Citizen. However, one who held warm feelings for the United States before then ban, may now possess a cold reserve to do it harm. This is the danger of blanket bans based on national origin. Banning the free movement of one solely based, on his or her national origin, is antithetical to the essence of Libertarian ideals.
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