Visigoths sack Rome – Wikimedia Commons


Immigration is a hot issue right now around the world. This essay will discuss the issue from both a historical and Libertarian perspective. Between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago, homo sapiens sapiens first emigrated out of Africa. By 30,000 years ago, based on archaeological and pale-ontological evidence, humans had made it to the southern tip of what is now Argentina. So, humans are capable of moving all over the earth even without cruise ships or jet planes.

Now, fast forward to 376 c.e. (A.D. For the politically incorrect readers). According to the historian Marcellinus, the Goths in what is now Eastern Europe were fleeing attacks by the Huns. The Goths decided to settle in Thrace, right across the Danube. This land was part of the Eastern Roman Empire under the rule of Flavius Julius Valens Augustus — known as Valens. The leader of the Goths was a man named Fritigern, who asked the Romans to receive the Goths as Valen’s subjects if the Goths lived peacefully and provide auxiliary troops if any necessity for such a force should arise, according to Marcellinus. Further, as a sign of gratitude to Valens, Fritigern converted to Christianity.

It started peacefully. The Romans helped the Goths cross the river. Their numbers, according to Marcellinus were up to 200,000. Many drowned crossing the river.

The Romans usually treated non-Romans (which they called “barbarians”) autocratically. But they often sent these people where the empire needed them most. The Romans pushed for assimilation that turned immigrants into citizens. Their motto was, “allow them into the empire and make them Roman.”

Things changed. The Romans had a welfare system for the Goths, but those in charge were corrupt and profited from the largess meant for the Goths. The Goths began starving. They went from wanting to become Roman to wanting to destroy Rome.

In 378 c.e., the Goths defeated a Roman army and slaughtered 30,000 Roman soldiers at the battle of Adrianople, thus defeating the empire. By 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome. Immigration can destroy an empire.*

Now, the Libertarian perspective on immigration: as a libertarian I believe with Milton Friedman that a country can have open borders to immigrants if they have no welfare, see above the “gratitude of the Goths”; or a country can have closed borders and welfare. But a country cannot have open borders and welfare and stay a country. I also believe that people should have the right to live wherever they wish as long as they rent or buy the property where they live and support themselves and their family.

As to welfare, that is the proper duty of religious and other charitable organizations. Welfare is not a proper function of government and is dangerous to the country.


*Much of the historical information about the Goths and Romans I took from Quartz Media LLC [US] “1,700 years ago, the mismanagement of a migrant crisis cost Rome its empire” by Annalisa Merelli.