Immigration and the Economic Freedom of Natives

Ilya Somin
Date of Publication: 
March, 2022
Source Organization: 

Much of the debate over the justice of immigration restrictions properly focuses on their impact on would-be migrants. For their part, restrictionists often focus on the potentially harmful effects of immigration on residents of receiving countries. This article cuts across this longstanding debate by focusing on ways in which immigration restrictions inflict harm on natives, specifically by undermining their economic liberty. The idea that such effects exist is far from a new one. But this article examines them in greater detail, and illustrates their truly massive scale. It covers both the libertarian “negative” view of economic freedom, and the more “positive” version advanced by left-liberal political theorists.Part I focuses on libertarian approaches to economic freedom. It shows that migration restrictions severely restrict the negative economic liberty of natives, probably more than any other government policy enacted by liberal democracies. That is true both on libertarian views that value such freedom for its own sake, and those that assign value to it for more instrumental reasons, such as promoting human autonomy and enabling individuals to realize their personal goals and projects.

Download now or view online.


Somin, I. (2022). Immigration and the Economic Freedom of Natives. (George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 22-08). Public Affairs Quarterly.