Liberty Hangout is at it again on their crusade against open borders—despite the fact that they say that they are in favor of privatizing the borders. I know this does not make much sense. They try to make sense of it by claiming that open borders means that you force people to open up their property to anyone who wants to use it. They also claim that freedom of movement would entail the same thing.
This is nonsense. When people refer to borders, unless they specify otherwise, it is safe to always assume that they are talking about borders created by the state. And freedom of movement is the idea that the state has no authority to say where a person can or cannot go. Both the open borders and freedom of movement positions—especially when held by a libertarian—respect the private property of the rightful owners.
Libertarian open borders advocates would never force people to allow others into their homes.
This may seem rudimentary, but the terms need defining since a recent Twitter discussion I had with Liberty Hangout revealed that they misrepresent both positions in order to obfuscate the argument. We discussed open borders and immigration in the most recent episode of the Rollo and Slappy Show as it related to this Twitter exchange. Justin Modlow of Liberty Hangout penned a piece around the same time where he tried to fit a round peg of advocating for the government to close the borders into the square hole of libertarianism.
He doesn’t mince words. He titled his piece, “Close the Borders NOW!”
I will now offer my feedback on his article:
Allow me to preface this by saying that I believe the only legitimate property is private property, and all land in the world must be privatized. The question that we must then answer is this: how do we get there?
Let us not forget that he says this. He claims to respect private property rights, so he is going to present his path to a system of private property by restricting private property. It’s like when George W. Bush said, “I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”
Not everything is privatized, and the state is too large to ignore. Absent the privatization of everything, the state has two options when it comes to the political borders it controls: to close the borders and restrict immigration, or to open the borders and leave immigration unrestricted.
Until the land is privatized, we must recognize that both open and closed borders are government solutions. If we want to decentralize and get to a society where everything is finally privatized, the state must act in a manner that will emit the least amount of damage and be more tantamount to the cause of decentralization.
Since Modlow is giving two options that are apparently government solutions and then wants to pick one, he is making an attempt to be a central planner. Absent a market system to equitably determine the best outcome, he wants you to trust him that his solution will be the best. And since he advocates for a government solution to this issue, he will commit violence against you if you decide to not go along with him.
So much for that Non-Aggression Principle.
But this is really all a moot point because Modlow is flat out wrong that “to open the borders and leave immigration unrestricted” is a government solution. How is the government not acting on something an action of the government? Does he consider the government not collecting taxes a government endeavor?
His qualifier “absent the privatization of everything” does not change this.
In answering the question of which would be preferable, closed borders or open borders, let’s look to some of the government’s other key services and ask the same question. In the absence of the privatization of the police, should government police stand down and do absolutely nothing when they see an old lady being robbed? Or should they do the job they are already paid to do? In the absence of the privatization of courts, is it preferable for courts not to prosecute criminals? In the absence of the privatization of the roads, should potholes never be filled?
Here Modlow conveniently compares apples to oranges. Restricting movement across borders is aggression against peaceful people. It is unethical. It is not unethical, on the other hand, to stop an old lady being robbed, prosecute criminals, or fill potholes. And as we shall see soon, it might be better if the government actually did stop trying to do all of that.
So what’s a better comparison to closing the borders? How about this: absent the privatization of food regulation, is it preferable for the government to not throw people in jail for trying to sell raw milk?
The answer is a resounding yes.
If the police were paid to protect citizens from violent criminals but did nothing to apprehend the offenders, and courts did nothing to prosecute them, we would live in a perpetual state of chaos, where everyone would be free to act without consequence. Why then, in the absence of the privatization of political borders, would it be preferable for immigration to be unrestricted, when there are socialists that want to come here to increase taxes and welfare, and violent theocrats that want to force their values on others?
Yes, you read that correctly. Let’s read it again:
If the police were paid to protect citizens from violent criminals but did nothing to apprehend the offenders, and courts did nothing to prosecute them, we would live in a perpetual state of chaos, where everyone would be free to act without consequence.
I’m not sure that you can understand markets any more poorly than Modlow does here. There is a clear market incentive for someone to organize a private version of the police and courts if the state were severely inadequate. And believe it or not, it’s already happened! The Detroit police just kind of gave up performing their duties to the public, so the private Detroit Threat Management System stepped in and has done a tremendous job since.
Why does Modlow think people would just let others ransack them? I have no idea because that notion is absolutely preposterous.
Anyway, why would any libertarian want government solutions to problems? They are awful at providing anything that is of value to people.
Do people migrate to the United States so they can create a socialist high tax welfare state or violently force their religion on others? Just because there might be a few people out there who have bad intentions does not justify a government restricting everyone. You would be hard pressed to find proof that the vast majority of people who immigrate to the United States are doing it for reasons other than just trying to make their lives better.
As Liberty Hangout writer Jared Howe notes, “allowing unrestricted travel of all individuals would maximize the damage done by the tragedy of the commons, thereby maximizing the damage done to the victims of taxation, thereby maximizing the size, scope and power of the state.”
No, the problem is not the immigration. The problem is the state and taxation. Modlow agrees that taxation is wrong and should not exist, so his solution to a problem caused by government is more government? I get that the welfare state is not going away any time soon, but increases in immigration do not necessarily mean increases in the use of welfare or increases in taxes. Howe and Modlow are begging the question. Immigration has economic advantages, so if anything, the free exchange of people and goods will lessen the burden on the victims of the state.
Like the previous examples, opening the borders and allowing immigration to be unrestricted creates a perpetual state of chaos, and will only move us further away from property norms.
It wouldn’t. Why would a libertarian advocate for the state to do more stuff? Isn’t that always the problem?
No private property owner would leave their front door wide open for anyone to come into their house, just as no private defense firm or court would sit idle as violent criminals ravage the town. Therefore in the absence of the privatization of everything, if we want to decentralize and get to a society where everything is privatized, it is preferable for the state to act as private land owners and defense firms would in the same situations.
Allowing freedom of movement does not leave anyone “wide open.” Remember, we are talking about people moving across arbitrary lines created by the state. A lot of private actors want people to move across those lines in the same way that they would want people to cross the imaginary line that separates New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
We need to close the borders NOW if we want to maximize our chances at soon achieving liberty, otherwise the likelihood of decentralization is only going to continue to dwindle. The US can ill afford to turn into Europe.
Here it is in a nutshell: Modlow believes that the voluntary interaction of people is incapable of determining who has permission to use private property and that an institution with a monopoly on force with no real incentives to act justly would outstrip it.
It’s kind of ironic that he calls him a voluntarist.