THE LEFT AND PROPERTY RIGHTS

I used to refer to my position on borders as favoring open borders. Unfortunately, that term has been hijacked by those who advocate the abolition of not only State borders, but of legitimate private property borders as well. Thus, I changed the term for what I advocate as an end goal to that of full privatization of borders. This should be the goal of every libertarian. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism, “The program of (classical) liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property, that is, private ownership of the means of production (for in regard to commodities ready for consumption, private ownership is a matter of course and is not disputed even by the socialists and communists). All the other demands of liberalism result from this fundamental demand.” [note]Mises, Ludwig von. Liberalism, p. 19[/note] Anyone claiming to be a libertarian must, as a minimum requirement, believe in the right or social necessity of individuals to own justly acquired property and reject aggressions against the same. Whether one subscribes to the idea of nonaggression in the Rothbardian tradition, or the utilitarian view of Mises, the inviolability of property rights are a starting point for constructing a libertarian worldview.

Those who reject the right or necessity of individuals to own property and use it without unwanted interference from interlopers should be viewed as holding views incompatible with libertarianism. Without respect for property rights, humans are no different from animals. In the second of his Two Treatises of Government, John Locke walks the reader through how property rights emerge, with the mixing of one’s labor with previously natural or unowned property marking the threshold where nature’s bounty passes from being unowned to owned by the person who mixed it with their labor. The alternatives to this view degenerate logically to two ridiculous options. On the one hand, where nothing can be owned, and thus the strong who robs the weak has committed no crime: as the strong, they take from the weak, and that’s that. This is what we see in the animal kingdom, with all its corollary violence and chaos. In such a scenario, every person would live hand to mouth, having no incentive to build or create something that could be stolen the next time a stronger person came along. In the second scenario, where everything is owned by everyone, no one could take so much as the food they needed to live without the consent of every possible consumer of that food, and would be stealing from the collective if there were any less than unanimous consent to letting a person take food to eat. The sheer impracticality of such an arrangement makes it unworkable. This is not a mere theoretical exercise, but a matter of practicality. In his essay “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature,” Murray Rothbard writes: “If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory. The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith. To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.”[note]Rothbard, Murray N. “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature,” Washington, D.C.: Libertarian Review Press. June 1974.
[/note]

Appeals to “personal” vs “private” property are without merit. It is clear that collectivists have in their mind an idea of factories and large-scale higher order goods when they pretend this is an important distinction. But once we realize there is an enormous array of goods in between an apple for eating and an automobile factory, the distinction is quickly exposed as nothing more than an arbitrary one, an intentional obfuscation cooked up by those who wish to violate the property rights of others. People holding such beliefs should be understood to be anti-libertarian. They balk when asked to explain who would divest individuals of their justly acquired property, because to explain their position any further would lay bare the inherent violence of their ideology.

Private property does not require violence, but merely the respect of human beings for each other. Defensive violence is not a background threat, but an option available to all acting persons when their body or justly acquired property is trespassed upon by others. Defensive violence, when used, must be proportional to the threat or trespass involved. As Murray Rothbard wrote in The Ethics of Liberty, “Thus, it should be quite clear that, under libertarian law, capital punishment would have to be confined strictly to the crime of murder. For a criminal would only lose his right to life if he had first deprived some victim of that same right. It would not be permissible, then, for a merchant whose bubble gum had been stolen, to execute the convicted bubble gum thief. If he did so, then he, the merchant, would be an unjustifiable murderer, who could be brought to the bar of justice by the heirs or assigns of the bubble gum thief.” [note]Rothbard, Murray N. The Ethics of Liberty, p.85[/note] Those who claim property rights give land owners the right to kill trespassers are either ignorant of this fact, or are intentionally distorting the libertarian view in an effort to undermine respect for the idea of property rights itself.

THE RIGHT AND COLLECTIVIST PROPERTY CLAIMS

The alt-right might be one of the greatest threats to the future of the libertarian movement. They have a rudimentary understanding of property rights, enough to make their beliefs sound libertarian enough to take in those with existing right-wing biases and a weak understanding of property rights. Once these ideas are inculcated in their minds, they can become ardent anti-libertarians while simultaneously thinking they are the “true” libertarians. Among them are those who actually advocate for using violence against immigrants who have done nothing more than cross the U.S. national boundary. These people should be shunned and ostracized by any self-respecting libertarian.

One of their central confusions is that of the State and the idea of covenant communities of the sort advocated by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his book Democracy: The God That Failed. In a stateless society, it is certain that communities would voluntarily form around shared cultures, beliefs and attitudes. There is nothing amiss here for the libertarian, any more than a libertarian should object to a family living in a house to the exclusion of others. It is quite a leap to conclude that the United States of America, with its vast area, population of over 300 million, apparatus of involuntary taxation and oppressive regulations, represents anything resembling such an arrangement. The United States is not a voluntary community, it is a State.

Taxation is theft, and as such recompense is owed by thieves to those they have robbed. The United States government is a gang of thieves writ large, and as such commits theft on a massive scale. Certainly those who have been robbed are owed recompense by those who have robbed them. Excluded from those who are owed recompense are those who are net recipients of the State’s largesse, though who exactly is a net recipient or victim could never be fully disentangled. Among those who would be considered net recipients are natives and immigrants, government employees, owners and executives of cronyist firms, and of course politicians themselves. Natives and immigrants are also among the net victims of theft, and as such are owed recompense.

When a theft is committed, the victim has a restitution claim against the thief. This is not a general property claim against all the claimed possessions of the thief. The victim of the theft does not become a shareholder, along with all the other victims of that thief, in all his belongings. As such, victims of taxation are not in any way part owners of all the lands, buildings, fighter jets, and office equipment currently owned (illegitimately) by the United States government. It is sometimes argued by right-libertarians that since the government’s assets will have to be liquidated at some point to repay its victims, that these assets need to be protected from further damage and consumption in anticipation of such a day. It is ironic, then, that their idea for protecting such assets is to give more money and power to the federal government to protect borders. They are thus arguing in favor of more destruction of wealth and consumption of resources at the hands of government officials.

The abolition of welfare should not be viewed as a prerequisite for efforts to privatize borders. The State is not a business, and cannot be run as one. Nor does it have the same incentives as a business. A business seeks to reduce costs and increase production in order to maximize profits. Thus, a reduction in operating costs will result in further investment in the business, lower prices, shareholder dividends, and any number of beneficial choices. The State does not respond to reduced operating costs by reducing taxation. The amount a State taxes is based on how much it can steal without causing a revolt, even if that means it steals less overall, such as in North Korea. If every welfare recipient, native or immigrant, were to be kicked off the dole tomorrow, there would be no return of wealth to those from whom it was stolen. It would simply be wasted wherever else politicians could think to waste it.

Socialized defense cannot work for the same reason socialized agriculture and industry is a failure everywhere it is tried. Government employees are incentivized to fail, success is punished, and budgets are always increasing. In The Private Production of Defense, Hans-Hermann Hoppe writes: “the idea of a protective state and state protection of private property is based on a fundamental theoretical error, and…this error has had disastrous consequences: the destruction and insecurity of all private property and perpetual war.”[note]Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. The Private Production of Defense, p. 51
[/note] Socialized services are irrational, and their resource allocation is necessarily chaotic. This was logically proven by Ludwig von Mises in Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. As such, those who argue for socialized defense are arguing for less defense of that which they claim to hold dear. They may be right that immigrants, as a group, tend to have more statist tendencies. But even if this were a good excuse to keep them out, those who advocate for socialized border defense don’t have a plan to do so.

SOLUTIONS

There is no question that some of the immigration into the United States is not beneficial. In the same way that a corn subsidy would cause corn farmers to grow more corn than the market demands, so too do government subsidies and incentives to immigration cause more of it to occur than would be occurring in a free market. As libertarians we should seek to reduce or abolish such government interference whenever possible.

We live in a statist world under the most powerful empire in history. The United States government is not going to abolish itself or its pet programs, at least not any time soon. When we look for solutions to the immigration, we need to talk about specific policy changes. Saying “I favor open borders” is nothing but a wish, and criticizing those actually trying to roll back government is counterproductive. There is no big red “private borders now” button, and thus intermediate steps toward this goal will not abolish socialized borders entirely, but accept some remaining but reduced level of government control. Along the way, we may find that we must forge alliances with people with whom we don’t always agree. We must use our best judgement in such cases, carefully walking the line between alienating potential allies in our quest for purity, and falling into statism ourselves. When considering a libertarian solution to the immigration issue, we need only keep a few things off the table – further violations of property rights, using violence against peaceful immigrants, and giving more power or funding to the federal government.

END THE WARS- Whether you believe wars cause central banking or the reverse, both cause horrific damage all around, and should be ended or reduced as soon as possible. In the context of immigration, it should not require explanation that destroying countries with warfare provides a strong incentive for the inhabitants of those countries to leave. It also has a tendency to make people hate the country that destroyed theirs. The United States has not had to deal with the negative immigration effects of its wars to the extent that Europe has, but the effects are still there. In addition to be immoral aggressions, wars create all kinds of problems, with harmful immigration, reductions in domestic freedom, and wealth destruction among them.

DECENTRALIZATION/SECESSION- I’m well aware of the problems with police, believe me. However, giving control of lands to the States that are currently administered by the United States federal government would be an improvement. State level officials are much more susceptible to local political pressure, have smaller budgets with which to do harm, and will more closely represent the desires of their constituency than politicians in Washington D.C. Furthermore, citizens in their respective states wouldn’t need to appeal to politicians in far-off states, but could instead focus on the politicians in their home state. All of this is even more true for lower levels of government such as county and municipality. It’s not perfect, but it’s politically feasible and would be an improvement over the current situation.

END THE WAR ON DRUGS- The principle effect of prohibition is to give control of the prohibited industry over to the criminal element, and to ensure high profits for them. In Mexico and other countries south of the US, high profits for drug cartels put ordinary farmers at a competitive disadvantage by forcing them to bid against the cartels for land and resources. Even in cases where the cartels don’t use strong-arm tactics to get their way, the lop-sided purchasing power of the cartels means more Mexican farmers are incentivized to head north where, instead of owning their own farm in their home country, they are illegal employees of farms in the US. Of course, along with this you have the problem of violent drug dealers crossing the border with drugs. Ending the War on Drugs is politically very feasible. Even ending the prohibition of one or two drugs would cut deeply into cartel profits and have a beneficial effect for people on both sides of the border.

ABOLISH AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES, TARIFFS AND QUOTAS- Along with ending the War on Drugs, the copious protectionist interventions into agricultural markets have the effect of artificially propping up US farms that the market would not support, ensuring higher prices for US consumers, and again harming farmers south of the US border. Without these interventions, Mexican farmers could dominate in many agricultural products, giving them a good life as entrepreneurs in their home country, rather than forcing them to become second-class citizens and employees north of the border.

ABOLISH WELFARE- For natives and immigrants, welfare rewards failure and punishes success. It engenders an infantilization of its recipients, it’s an immoral transfer of wealth, it contributes to the destruction of traditional families, it displaces private charity. It attracts freeloaders, causing excessive immigration while local-born potential workers sit idle. It should be reduced or abolished wherever possible. While this is only marginally feasible as a short-term solution, and may only become politically viable in the event of an economic calamity, we must keep it in mind.

ABOLISH THE MINIMUM WAGE- Working for a wage that is agreed to by the parties involved voluntarily, without coercion, is not exploitation. Employers offer a wage that workers are free to decline. If they accept, their choice demonstrates that of all the options available to them, this was their best available alternative. Taking this choice away from them reduces their quality of life, and prevents them from building the work experience to move beyond low-level jobs. Immigrants working illegally will end up working for wages below the minimum wage anyway, since both they and their employers are already breaking the law by engaging in what would otherwise be a voluntary exchange.

STAND UP FOR DEFENSIVE RIGHTS- In the absence of socialized border control, property owners on the border could take charge of their own defense. Rather than rounding up peaceful families, setting up inland checkpoints, and intercepting marijuana shipments, they could focus on those who pose actual threats to their property. Their ability to protect themselves should not be infringed in any way. At the same time, both they and the people they may accost need to have their rights respected. Gun rights, property rights, and human rights need to be respected above all else, and infringements of them should not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Prohibition of immigration, like all forms of government prohibition, has the effect of placing the parties engaged outside of the law, where they would otherwise be allowed to conduct their exchange freely and openly. Placing them outside the law has the effect of introducing violence as the primary means of settling disputes. It makes immigrants themselves more likely to use violence to avoid being caught and sent back, and it puts many immigrants at the mercy of sadistic cartels and human trafficking operations. [note] Cleveland.com. “Fifth person charged in human trafficking operation that brought children from Guatemala to work on Ohio egg farms” Posted Dec 27, 2017
[/note]

CONCLUSION

Solutions to the problems of government borders are not going to come from the same government that caused the problems in the first place. More socialized border control will not solve the problems of socialized border control. Violating property rights will not yield a society where property rights are respected. Acting like barbarians toward immigrants will not engender peaceful, humane interactions between people. Advocating for more government waste will not protect the resources tax victims may someday receive as recompense for the theft committed against them. The goal of maximum liberty for all people must be the lodestar for libertarians. We should support rollback, secession, decentralization, nullification, and rebellion against government interference wherever possible, taking care not to become such purists that we balk at incremental improvements, nor such pragmatists that we forget the end goal. Do not be misled by those who insist further statist intervention is the only alternative.