The Libertarian Argument Against the Wall

A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Construction is underway to extend a secondary fence over the top of this hill and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.

Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and the reason for the government shutdown has gotten a ton of attention recently and with the different opinions about the wall, I thought it would be appropriate to give the Libertarian argument against the wall.

Waste of Money

First off the wall is a huge waste of money. Fiscal conservatives typically rail against wasteful government spending but they are staying quiet on his one. Yes, $5 Billion is a drop in the bucket of the federal budget but where do we draw the line when it comes to spending. The national debt is over $22 Trillion now and continues to rise at an exponential rate. The government has the ability to allocate that money elsewhere, whether that is paying down the debt or returning that money to taxpayers.

The Freedom to Travel

In Libertarian philosophy, the freedom to travel without restriction is fundamental. As free people, there are technically no borders and I shouldn’t be told that I can’t cross some arbitrary line that a government says exists. I should have the ability to flee oppression in favor of a free life.

Economic Downside

Basically, they will find a way around a wall no matter what. Whether that is finding areas that aren’t walled off, or going under the wall, or even sometimes over the wall.

The following graphic is from the U.S. Borders and Customs.

Donald Trump has insisted from the start of his campaign that Mexico will pay for the wall. When he presented a proposal to Congress to fund the wall’s construction in January, he continued to insist that Mexico would repay the United States. For his part, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said that he would refuse to pay for any portion of the wall, and the back-and-forth became so heated in January that he canceled a meeting with Trump.

The U.S. president has remained vague about how this reimbursement will happen without Mexico’s cooperation, and his total lack of understanding of basic economic concepts may be contributing to his erroneous belief. “The wall is a fraction of the kind of money…that Mexico takes in from the United States,” he told CNN in April 2016. “You’re talking about a trade deficit with Mexico of $58 billion.” In other words, he seems to be saying that if the Mexican government does not give him the $31 billion or more that it will take to build the wall, Trump will tax America’s business with Mexico. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer intimated something similar in January 2017.

Even if that were to happen, it is simply inaccurate to claim that America’s southern neighbor would be paying for the wall, since the revenue would be coming from U.S. consumers. If the United States imposes a tax on Mexican imports, then people in America buying Mexican goods, from beer to cars, will cover it. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said as much to Trump during a presidential primary debate in January 2016, explaining that the Mexican government “doesn’t pay the tariff-the buyer pays the tariff.” Evidently, the lesson failed to stick.

Trump has also floated the idea of cutting off remittances to Mexico of unauthorized immigrants if the Mexican government refuses to pay up. His proposed regulatory method of doing this (claiming that cash wire transfers are actually bank accounts) is legally suspect, but even if it were licit, it would not cover the cost of the wall. Although Mexican immigrants annually send $26 billion to their families in Mexico, only half of the Mexican immigrants in the United States are here illegally, and the majority of the remittances from unauthorized immigrants would likely find a way home through means other than wire transfers.

At the end of the day why are we just all of a sudden having this argument? Yes, illegal immigration was a problem for a while, but it has died down since, but then Trump comes along and all of a sudden it is a national emergency.


Author: Robert J. Bentley

History and Political Science Professor in Colorado Springs, CO. Advocate for a free and voluntary society.

13 thoughts

  1. Libertarian point of view is that one of governments responsibilities is to protect it’s citizens. Protecting the borders is one way to do that. I am all for freedom to travel. But let’s reserve this freedom to travel for those who respect the right of others to live peacefully. We must vet outsiders before letting them into our country. Fingerprints and background checks are the least we can do. Foreigners are not afforded the same rights to freedom as citizens. Just common sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I lean libertarian, except with this issue. Walls do work. You can’t have unfettered access with a welfare state as the US is today. In a utopian world freedom to travel is ideal, but reality dictates otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. Arguing with a Libertarian usually gets me nowhere because they will adopt a purist stand to live up to consistency. I posit myself as a person who starts from a Libertarian position, but not a true Libertarian according to their rules. To protect civil liberties (in the constitutional sense. not the modern day) you need to acknowledge a construct. The Wall acknowledges the construct.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Bingo. You have to get rid of the welfare state first. Personally, I would open up the country to a lot more immigrants, but they they have to be vetted and checked for disease. Also, until we legalize all drugs A wall is necessary for the safety of our citizens. A free society does not give free money to all comers, encourage slavery through sex trafficking and drug cartels, and allow products that bypass the free market (and any system where customers are murdered for complaining and competitors are assassinated is NOT a free market.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Travel is not the same as staying in the country to work for awhile or staying to enjoy the quality of life offered to the citizenry. Why do we not demand that Mexico not get its house in order and retain and provide for it’s own citizens. That would more than pay for a then unnecessary wall.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We are “all of a sudden” having the argument because the stakes are higher. Drugs flowing into the US fuel an out of control epidemic. Undocumented and unaccountable workers undermine legitimate businesses, particularly in the construction industries.


  5. My countries sovereignty is not addressed by theses arguments. It may be impossible to be a Libertarian if no borders is a solution to other governments oppression or lack of law and order or fiscal responsibility. Walls don’t stop every incursion but make it harder for illegal activity. We need updated immigration laws as well. Where the hell are the statesmen that can make a deal !!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ve got to be kidding the right to travel is only in this country try scaling the wall to get into Mexico and see if they will be so kind as to give you food tax breaks drivers license anything else.rhe answer is they will give you something 2yrs in their prison system I usually agree with libertarian ideas but your way off base


  7. Again that very weak argument: “they will find a way around a wall no matter what”. That’s like saying there’s no sense in wearing seat belts because some crashes are so bad that you’ll be killed. A wall will of course reduce the number of illegal entries, ask the Hungarians or the Israelis.

    Then you say that the total number of apprehensions went up, “proving” that the wall is ineffective. Most likely these went up because more people attempted the crossing (perhaps because a wall is going up), and probably more money was spent to hire more border patrol agents increasing the chance of capturing illegal entrants.

    Then finally he says that the majority of half of the $26billion in money transfers (so that must at least $7billion then) finds its way across the border to Mexico illegally. If that were even the case then surely a wall would stop that?


  8. Too expensive?! The alternative is to spend trillions taking care of all these needy people and stepping up law enforcement against the gang violence and human trafficking that accompanies unfettered access across our border.


  9. Isn’t being libertarian about minimalistic government and allowing people to rule their own lives? If you actually have “dangerous illegals” coming into your community why have big daddy government take care of you by building a wall, that’s as bad as applying for welfare is. Get a gun and actually protect yourself if there is a reason to do so, but I’d say illegal immigrants aren’t the biggest threat.


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