How Americans Can Help Ukrainians

Forget guaranteeing loans to corrupt government officials or facing down the Russians over Crimea. Open the borders!


It can't be easy living in Russia's shadow, and I envy no one in that position. Given its long history and, consequently, the temperament of its leaders (and a good part of its population), Russia for the foreseeable future will be a regional power with an attitude. Thus it will ever be concerned with what happens on its borders. Like it or not, that's how it is. America can't change this situation, though it surely can exacerbate it.

Phillip Pessar/Flickr

And it has—by pushing NATO, the Cold War anti-Soviet alliance, up to Russia's borders; by talking about putting interceptor missiles in former Soviet-allied nations in central Europe; by dangling NATO membership before former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia; and by cutting deals with other former Soviet republics in central Asia. Yet the fact of Western contributory provocation is probably of little comfort to the innocent people of Ukraine.

So, what to do? Ukrainian military resistance would bring disaster. So would U.S. and NATO intervention. Destroying a village in order to save it is too reminiscent of America's losing strategy in Vietnam. Perhaps some understanding between Ukraine and Russia along the lines of Finland's would be possible; this would entail, in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, "mutually respectful neighbors, wide-ranging economic relations both with Russia and the EU, but no participation in any military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at itself."

That is for the people of Ukraine—not someone sitting safely in the United States—to decide. Ukrainian individuals and voluntary organizations should call the shots. I can see no good reason the central government in Kiev should determine for everyone in the country whether Ukrainians will trade with Europe or with Russia. The binary choice is a false alternative, and the two contending power groups should not demand that sort of choice. Free trade is about the liberty of individuals, not the power of governments, which would be well-advised to keep hands off.

None of this means that Americans can't help individual Ukrainians. There is one important way to help without expanding Washington's power, which achieved alarming proportions many generations ago.

I'm talking about opening America's borders—scrapping immigration controls. Ukrainians who want to get out of their dicey neighborhood, whether permanently or temporarily, should be free to move to the United States. Look at it this way: How dare we Americans confine Ukrainians to a condition they might desperately wish to escape? How can we imagine ourselves to be a humane people while engaged in a policy with such odious consequences and implications for liberty?

Opening the borders, of course, is not offered here as a comprehensive answer to the conflict between Russia and the Ukrainians who want to be free of Russian influence, but it may be an answer for some Ukrainians. How many, no one can know. But it makes little difference. Let them in! There are about a million Ukrainians in the United States (2006 census figures), second only to Canada outside of Ukraine itself, with the largest centers in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The newcomers need not be strangers in a strange land, though they should be welcome throughout the country.

Respecting the freedom to move would not only help the individuals who choose to exercise it; it might also have benefits in Ukraine itself. The kleptocrats of all parties, who have used Ukraine like their personal milch cow, might finally realize their folly if they witnessed an exodus of their most enterprising and ambitious residents.

But let's not stop there. Why should Ukrainians get special treatment? There are oppressed and impoverished people everywhere, and it is no more humane for Americans to condemn them to bad conditions than it is to condemn the Ukrainians. Respecting the freedom to move is a matter of justice.

Unsurprisingly, justice would have good consequences. "Immigration restrictions trap many millions in Third World misery. Economists' consensus estimate is that open borders would roughly double world GDP, enough to virtually eliminate global poverty," George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan writes (PDF).

So forget guaranteeing loans to corrupt government officials. Forget facing down the Russians over Crimea. Open the borders!

This column originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. I say we could absorb as many girls under 30 as they would care to send us.

    1. ^^THIS^^

    2. Yeah, the Ukraine girls really knock me out.
      They leave the West behind.

    3. You want even MORE of them?

      Are you sure you don’t want to rethink this?

      1. We could have them send over a few dudes for you. Don’t get all shirty.

        1. Sure, it sounds like a good idea at your age. Just you wait till you’ve been living with the same one for 20 years.

          1. I’ve been living with a fine woman for 22 years. But I could find a place in my heart for a 25-ear-old Ukrainian rhythmic gymnast.

            1. *year-old* I do not want one with old ears.

              1. Or an odd number of ears. Amiright?

            2. I didn’t realize you were that ancient.

              What would you do with the old one, is her contract up? If not, it’s gonna cost ya.

              I certainly couldn’t handle two.

    4. It’s our duty to help these refugees escape their plight.

      1. Are those the ones in your basement?

          1. I don’t know what this samentbay thing is. Asementbay, I’m all over it. Or down in it.

            1. I can make typos in several languages!

    5. I about got whiplash looking to and fro in Lviv in 2003…oh my.

    6. Carl: Oh, man. I cannot wait. I got the oils, the candles, the works! When does that babe get here?

      Shake: Carl, don’t refer to her as a “babe”, please. She is a Chechnyan prostitute, and you will address her as such.

      Carl: Look, just don’t cash that check immediately. I wanna make sure that both of us marryin’ her is gonna be, you know, legal.

      Shake: Of course it is! What are you kidding me? Santa Claus ain’t legal and he’s around.

      Carl: Well, I guess that makes sense, you know.

      1. Just say Smith again. It don’t matter. None of it matters.

  2. OT: Phew, we got the green light. Let’s go to the moon!

    Does higher minimum wage kill jobs? Researchers say it doesn’t

    Raising the minimum wage doesn’t have a drastic negative impact on employment, according to university researchers who have studied pay hikes in other cities.

    Well, that was easy.

    1. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t have a drastic negative impact on employment,

      I’m assuming that “drastic” is in this case defined as “something vaguely worse than the negative impact we did observe”

      1. The word ‘Drastic’ is hidden below the blaring headline.

        Seattle Times has done this before.

        The once printed an article I directly took them to task on which blared “Acupuncture reduces smoking” or some such nonsense, and in their own article, the study reported that Acupuncture had the same outcomes as sham acupuncture.”

        They changed their headline a few hours later.

    2. Well to be fair, a minimum wage hike won’t cost jobs if it remains below the market price for labor. If it’s raised above it, it will.

      Be interesting to see what the impact was on prices.

      1. I agree. Typically they lag behind the going rate. I know when the economy was strong the Wendys across the street was advertising $10. Of course getting out of the way of the economy is the real solution here.

      2. You’d think something this simple and accessible, even to the market skeptics populating the left, would be the end of the discussion. Minimum wage hikes will have an insignificant impact on poverty levels, and if it’s hiked enough to reduce poverty it’ll negatively impact employment and wash out anyway. Labor’s a commodity much like any other, and price floors won’t miraculously change that fact.

      3. Is $15/hr below the market price for labor?

        1. Oh, and this. The shills will point to the going minimum wage as an indicator that a substantially higher minimum would have the same negligible impact, because obviously tradeoffs and substitutions cease to factor when we’re discussing employment.

          Someone should explain the concept of dose-response to these people.

          1. They’d be explaining it to a city council with a self-identified socialist, surrounded by uber progressives.

            Seattle’s getting a $15 minimum wage.

            1. Fair enough; I’m curious how many people work for the prevailing minimum wage ($9.50, I think), given that Seattle’s median income is substantially higher than the rest of the country. And how many of those working for $9.50 now will still be employed by summer.

        2. For what job? Where?

          That’s why these studies are bullshit. They studied 9 cities and 21 states that had higher minimum wages than the federal minimum…

          They never look at whether the increases to the wage were above or below the going market price for the labor and they don’t look at what prices did in those instances that the increase was above the current market labor price.

          If your cost of labor increases you can either scale back or raise prices. There is no other alternative.

    3. “…according to economists at the University of California, Berkeley”

      just as an exercise: lets see what googling that specific citation allows us to unearth from teh webs…

      Rich Getting Richer? = BAD

      “The income gap between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America last year reached the widest point since the Roaring Twenties, an academic study shows…”

      Forcing People to Green up Their Cribs? = GOOD

      “The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market” is the
      first study to provide statistical evidence that, holding other factors constant,
      a green label on a single-family home in California provides a market
      premium compared to a comparable home without the label. The research
      also indicates that the price premium is influenced by local climate and
      environmental ideology.”

      Too Much Choice? = EVIL

      “Daniel McFadden, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that consumers find too many options troubling because of the “risk of misperception and miscalculation, of misunderstanding the available alternatives, of misreading one’s own tastes, of yielding to a moment’s whim and regretting it afterwards”, combined with “the stress of information acquisition”. Indeed, the expectation of indecision can prompt panic and a failure to choose at all.”

      1. “Indeed, the expectation of indecision can prompt panic and a failure to choose at all.”

        Hence the large amounts of people found in the fetal position and gibbering at grocery stores…

        1. Happens to me once a week. Of course, I’m also usually suffering from alcohol poisoning at that point.

      2. I add “…according to economists at the University of California, Berkeley” to the end of the fortunes I find in fortune cookies. Laughs are often had.

    1. The cop didn’t shoot him for texting. He shot him for some other reason that will hopefully come out.

      1. I recall he was being assaulted by deadly popcorn. Cop has a right to go home safe after all.

        1. Man, I didn’t realize what a geezer this guy is…

          1. See! Crazy old guys in Florida!

    2. Reeves has pleaded not guilty to both counts. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

      Mandatory minimums! For Cops!

  3. “Ukrainian military resistance would bring disaster”

    C’mon guys,stop resisting, just roll over and let Mr. Putin do his business to ya!

  4. Perhaps some understanding between Ukraine and Russia along the lines of Finland’s would be possible;

    Finland had to kill several hundred thousand Russian soldiers to get that understanding, you realize.

    1. The Ukrainians need to find out right away if Simo H?yh? had any children, and if he did, tell them to get practicing.

    2. And lose a goodly portion of their territory too. Sheldon must not like Ukraine.

    3. The statistics on the Winter War are amazing. If you went by the numbers, it should have been completely one sided; the Russians should have absolutely destroyed the Fins. Instead, the exact opposite happened.

      It’s one of the biggest underdog wins in modern military history.

      1. Talvisota is a fun movie. And I’m sure I’ve mentioned here how much I love my 1943-dated M39.

        1. The Fins did a good job when they rebuilt those Mosins, that’s for sure.

      2. The Russians also benefited from an exceptionally cold winter, which allowed them to use tanks in March to capture island bases in the Gulf of Finland. Without that, it’s doubtful the Finns would have sued for peace.

      3. it wasn’t a win though, Once the Russians broke through the Mannerheim line it was over and the Finns gave up. The Finns were forced to give up only the territory originally demanded by Stalin which was good for them considering the fate of the other Baltic states.

        and btw for anyone who cares this was the war that gave us the Molotov Cocktail.

    4. And cede a shit ton of territory, plus mineral rich areas in the north.

  5. “Open the borders!”

    Is Sheldon subbing for Shikha today?

  6. Better idea: offer green cards to Russian soldiers: in 90 days Russia would have no military.

    1. And we would have no vodka.

    2. Don’t forget the Chinese military racist.

  7. I’m not dignifying this logic-soup with so much as a dash of salt.

  8. Just replace “open the borders” with “end the Fed” and the article makes just as much sense.

    1. Are you saying the Fed should be run by Mexican immigrants?

  9. Well, I’m totally in favour of this idea. The more Mila Kunises we can get, the better.

    1. …. I’m listening.

  10. Why do I feel the need to duck?

    1. Because your head feels unsafe outside of the warm confines of your ass?

  11. Opening up the borders will help individual Ukrainians seeking a better life. But it’ll do Ukraine no good if the resistance (and their upper class and intellectual elites) simply skips town and cedes control to Putin.

    We know that there were unsavory elements in the freedom movement that kicked out the Ukrainian president. Radical Islamists were apparently among the group. Dropping “immigration control” sounds humane but it’s ultimately unwise. The Boston bombing happened just last year.

    We like to think the U.S. is some immigration hot spot, but Europeans (anyone outside of Southeast Asia and some South American regions) are not as visible here. I RARELY see immigrants with a think German, French, or Italian accent. I suppose there are more of them in middle sections of the country. But it’ll be harder for Ukrainians to adjust here than somewhere in Britain.

    1. Do we really need to get into the ratio of radical Islamist bombing attacks to total number of European immigrants per annum?

      To your other point, I agree that it doesn’t do the Ukrainian state or the Ukrainians who remain any good for Ukrainians to flee the country, but I suppose it comes down to what you hope to accomplish via policy. If the US HAS to do SOMETHING, which is usually the consensus when something like this happens, I think unconditional asylum and a few pamphlets on the nationalization process beat the hell out of any military options, and it’s much more effective than sanctions.

  12. Let me guess once we give asylum to Ukrainians the open borders crowd can start wailing about “racists” who don’t want brown people in. We don’t need any more reasons to open the borders for everybody.

  13. The problem with suggesting immigration as a solution for political problems is that it doesn’t actually solve anything.

    Yes, it makes things better for the people who emigrate. But does it actually solve the root of the problem, the problem with the country they fled? No, it just aggravates it, because the brighter and more motivated people in the country leave, rather than staying and fixing the problems.

    And like all immigration, it depresses wages in this country. More labor supply = lower wages. Will that perhaps mean lower prices for goods and services? Somehow it never actually works out that way, all the profit goes into the pockets of management/shareholders, not to the workers in the form of wages.

  14. Open the borders? What?

    Fucking stupid Sheldon Richman. Yep, run away from your homes if you want liberty. Oh, you want liberty in Ukraine. Tough shit… you’re border is too close to mother Russia and you get no freedom.

    Edward Snowden still finds succor in Russia under Putin. I bet Putin kills him when he’s done needing him.

  15. Opening borders wouldn’t solve a damn thing for the Ukrainians. Only Ukrainians can fix this, they have to fight against Russia themselves if they want their freedom.

    Their military will probably be steamrolled but that’s what guerilla warfare is for, If the Hadji’s can kick us (and Russia) out of their countries despite our battlefield superiority, the Ukrainians ought to be able to handle Ivan.

  16. Here is a reader comment from today’s Die Welt relating to Mr. Sheldon’s argument for open admission of Ukrainians to the Bundesrepublik:

    “What are the benefits for welcoming Ukraine to Europe? A huge deficit, monster debt, an ailing economy, fertile ground for [Ukrainian] Nazis, millions of Ukrainians on packed suitcases and a potential war with the Russians. Hmm! When I think about it the right way, these are the best conditions for EU accession.”

    Judging from the comments in the German press, the RF has a better chance of peeling the Bundesrepublik away from NATO than NATO has of peeling the Crimea, Odessa and Easter Ukraine away from the RF.

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