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Death and Libertarianism

Whenever a government program or policy produces deaths of innocent people, the way I figure it is that that makes it incumbent on libertarians to take a firm stand against such programs and policies. We all know that there are all sorts of government regulations that deprive people of liberty that we libertarians need to oppose. Recent examples include mandatory lockdowns and mask mandates. But there is something about the finality of death that makes government programs and policies that produce death something much more significant than a regulatory crackdown on liberty.

I just came across an article that talks about the mutilated corpses of nine men on a highway on the Mexican side of the U.S. border in South Texas. That discovery came five days after “the bullet ridden bodies of 18 men were discovered” in the north-central Mexican state of Zacatecas. 

Around the same time, the bodies of two abducted police officers were found hanging from an overpass in the Zacatecas state capital.

Just a couple of weeks ago, on June 19, 15 innocent people were killed at random in the Mexican border town of Reynosa, in the Rio Grande Valley.

Just recently, as many as 50 people have gone missing while driving from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Monterrey, Mexico, which is about 3 hours away. This one hit home for me because when I was living in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, in the 1970s, a friend of mine and I drove to Monterrey to play in a big bridge tournament. At that time, no one thought about being kidnapped or killed. For that matter, my parents drove from Laredo to Acapulco for their honeymoon in the late 1940s, with nary a concern about losing their lives to kidnappers or murderers. 

The cause of all these deaths? The drug war, the U.S. government’s second-biggest death producer, second only to the federal program of foreign military interventionism. 

Yes, it’s technically the Mexican government’s war on drugs that has produced so much death, destruction, and suffering. But in actuality it’s the U.S. government that forces Mexico to follow its lead. If the U.S. government were to legalize drugs, the Mexican government would quickly do so as well.

With drug legalization, the massive death toll in Mexico would come to a screeching halt. The drug cartels and drug lords would be out of business immediately. So would all the drug-war bureaucracies that enforce this evil, deadly, and destructive government program.

When I read that article, I immediately thought of a photo of the bodies of a father and his two-year-old daughter lying on the shore of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, which is across from Brownsville, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. They drowned trying to crossing the Rio Grande in search of a better life. 

The reason they drowned is because of the U.S. government’s immigration-control policy. Under a libertarian system of open borders, they would have been free to cross the border like normal human beings, by simply walking across a bridge spanning the Rio Grande.

They aren’t the only ones who have died as a result of America’s system of immigration controls. According to this article in USA Today, the remains of 2,832 migrants have been found in the Arizona desert since 2001.

They aren’t the only ones. According to this article in the Guardian, in 2017 ten migrants suffocated in the back of a tractor trailer in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 bodies were found in an abandoned milk truck in Victoria, Texas. The truck’s refrigeration system had been turned off. According to the article, the first to die was a five-year-old boy who died in the arms of his father. 

U.S. immigration officials blame these deaths on human smugglers. What such officials choose not recognize, however, is that it is their policy of immigration controls that give rise to the smugglers. The system and the people who enforce the system are as much responsible for the deaths of these innocent people as the smugglers are. 

Libertarianism is the only way out of all this death and mayhem. That necessarily means drug legalization and open borders.

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Jacob G. Hornberger
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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