The not-so-scary implications of arguments against open borders

On February 16, Jason Brennan published an article arguing that arguments made by libertarians against open borders have disturbing implications that said libertarians almost never address, such as advocacy of censorship, voting restrictions, eugenics, internal migration restrictions, etc. In this rebuttal, I will address these implications and show on a point-by-point basis that some such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order.

“Closing borders is in the first instance a form of economic protectionism. When we close borders, we forbid people from making willing, mutually-beneficial trades with one another.”

Not necessarily. People can engage in economic activity with one another without crossing a border by either having someone else ship goods between them or having some neutral location in which economic activity may take place.

“At first glance, it looks like we’re violating a right of freedom of movement and a right of freedom of association. Perhaps such restrictions can be justified, but we need a good reason.”

Such restrictions can be justified, and a good reason is that forbidding such restrictions violates private property rights as well as the freedom of association of the property owners who do not wish to associate with immigrants. The only exception is for immigrants or refugees who are going to a place where they are welcome but must pass through territory where they are unwelcome in order to get there. In this case, the right to life must be weighed against the right to property. The right to life is clearly superior to the right to property; the exercise of property rights requires one to be alive, and that which is dependent cannot overrule that upon which it is dependent. The result is that immigrants may travel through territory where they are unwelcome if it is impossible for them to get to the destination where they are welcome without traveling through territory where they are unwelcome. This right of emergency easement is subject to some restrictions which can easily be deduced from the above:

  1. If there is any other path, they must take it and avoid the territory in which they are unwelcome.
  2. While in the property of those who do not welcome them, they must not threaten in any way the ability of the property owner(s) to stay alive, as their rights to life cannot overrule the property owner’s right to life.
  3. The immigrants must show as much respect as possible for private property by moving as fast as possible through territory where they are unwelcome and using no more resources from the property than they must in order to stay alive.

“But now look at the reasons people give, and ask whether these reasons imply not merely that we should close borders, but that we may do a whole host of other illiberal things. Consider:

We need to close borders to maintain a liberal culture. If you think so, then to maintain a liberal culture, you should also in principle be willing to censor certain points of view, or forbid or ban certain religions. You might also favor forced indoctrination into liberal ideas.

We need to maintain our distinctive culture. Again, if that’s a good reason to close borders, why is it not also a good reason to censor certain ideas, ban certain forms of music, or ban certain religions? Why not mandate that people support and participate in certain cultural practices? Why not require people to speak certain languages at home, or read certain books?”

Clearly, using illiberal means to maintain a liberal culture is inherently contradictory. But the goal of a libertarian should be the maintenance of a libertarian social order, not a liberal one. Therefore, let us address the objections with this goal in mind.

Maintaining a distinctive culture is a good reason to restrict immigration. A society does not exist in and of itself; it is a mental abstraction and grammatical shorthand to refer to each person within a certain geographical area. Adding people of a fundamentally different disposition to an area will make the society there have a greater resemblance to the place where the immigrants originated. It is amazing that so many libertarians fail to understand this, given the effort to change the culture of New Hampshire in a libertarian direction by increasing the number of libertarians there. By the same reasoning, importing communists or Islamists will change the culture of a community in those directions, and those directions are anti-libertarian.

The implication that certain ideas should be censored, or that certain cultural practices should be required, is consistent with a libertarian understanding of private property. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains in Democracy: The God That Failed, a community established for the protection of libertarian values (self-ownership, liberty, property) cannot abide the promotion of ideas which are fundamentally opposed to these goals. This means that no right to unlimited free speech exists because like other liberty rights, it should not be used to violate private property rights and freedom of association.

We need to prevent domestic wages from falling. If so, would you (if the facts turned out the right way) also forbid women from entering certain jobs?”

There is no need to do this. In a free market, egalitarian nonsense will be defeated by rational incentives which respect inherent biological differences between the genders, such as the greater standard deviation in intelligence test results and the greater average physical strength for males versus females. The result that fields which require high intelligence and/or great physical strength will be male-dominated (though not male-exclusive) will be understood as natural rather than demonized as sexist.

“Immigrants won’t vote the right way. If you find that persuasive, then in principle you should be open to forbidding certain parties, banning certain people from voting, or engaging in political censorship.”

Properly understood, libertarianism is antithetical to any kind of statism, but is particularly opposed to democracy. To quote Hoppe, democracy promotes shortsightedness, capital waste, irresponsibility, and moral relativism. Whereas a monarch (or any other private property owner with allodial title) owns the capital stock of the property, elected officials serve as temporary stewards. This means that while an allodial title holder is incentivized to care for property to preserve it as an inheritance and capital good, an elected official is incentivized to plunder property while he or she can. Democracy encourages moral relativism by replacing objective ethics with an appeal to the masses. A libertarian strategist would be wise to seek to ban certain people from voting, as the perverse incentives of democracy grow as democracy becomes more inclusive. As discussed above, censorship is consistent with a libertarian understanding of private property.

Immigrants will cause crime. Isn’t this also an argument for eugenics or for internal migration restrictions? For instance, should New Hampshire ban young black men from Washington, DC [statistically more likely to commit crime than the average New Hampshirite] from moving there? If banning rap music reduced crime, would you favor that?”

People have a right to defend themselves from aggression, and they may do so by politically incorrect means as long as those means are consistent with libertarianism. Eugenics as historically practiced by states flagrantly violates the non-aggression principle, but passive forms of eugenics (aka allowing people to suffer the consequences of their poor decision-making) are permissible. The state of New Hampshire should not ban people based on race or censor rap music, but a private property owner or covenant community thereof should be free to do so within their private property.

Immigrants will eat up the welfare state or consume too many public goods. Is this not also an argument for restricting births, or forbidding internal migration, or even requiring some people to give birth?”

No, this is an argument for ending the welfare state and privatizing all public goods.

We have a right to self-determination, and we may choose to exclude people. Is this not also an argument that ‘we’ may choose to exclude some people from having children?”

This is only true in a certain sense. The rules of a covenant community may include anything from prohibitions to requirements concerning childbirth. As long as everyone who formed the covenant agreed to it voluntarily, the penalty for violating it could be expulsion from the property or any other punitive measure that does not violate the right to life of the parents or children.

We collectively own our institutions and may exclude people, or dictate the terms on which they associate with us. If so, doesn’t this also license us to do pretty much whatever we want, including censoring people, forbidding some from having children, and so on?”

This argument assumes that a collective exists and has ownership of the government, which is another collective. To exist is to have a concrete, particular form in physical reality. To say that abstract objects exist is to beg the question of where they exist, to which there is no answer because there is no empirically observable entity. To say that collectives exist is beg the question of what physical form they take, as all available physical forms are occupied by the individuals which are said to comprise the collective. Thus, there is no “we”; there is only you, I, and every other individual person. By the same token, the government does not exist; each person, each building, each gun, etc. exists. Additionally, to own something is to have a right of exclusive control over it. Part and parcel of this right is the right to physically destroy that which one owns. As governments use force to stop citizens who attempt to physically destroy the state, the citizens are not the de facto owners of a government.

“Now, perhaps the defender of immigration restrictions can come up with plausible accounts of why immigration restrictions are permissible, but then explain why they are not committed (at least in principle) to these other illiberal policies.”

This is unnecessary because there are good reasons to commit to other illiberal policies, at least within the confines of one’s private property or a covenant community.

“But one thing I’ve noticed, when reading the various arguments philosophers and others have put forward for immigration restrictions, is that they almost never bother to explain why not. They make broad arguments that have scary implications, arguments that do not specifically show that we may close borders, but arguments that, if sound, imply all sorts of illiberal things. But the authors of these arguments just don’t notice where their arguments lead.”

To conclude, such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order. Libertarianism requires borders, as private property cannot exist without them. Private property may be used in an illiberal or even tyrannical way by its owners, but the alternative of embracing open borders is not freedom; it is totalitarian statism.

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  • Jonathan Gress

    I think you miss Jason’s point, especially in your critique of his objection concerning the collective. He is arguing against libertarians who wish to use the STATE to limit immigration, and you respond with various non sequiturs about the private right to exclude outsiders or limit free speech on one’s own property, which I don’t think Jason is objecting to. And his point about collective ownership, as far as I can see, is that it is indeed an incoherent justification for exclusion: once you grant the collective the power to exclude, you have no principled grounds on which to oppose granting it all other powers over individuals.

    • Jared

      “He is arguing against libertarians who wish to use the STATE to limit immigration, and you respond with various non sequiturs about the private right to exclude outsiders or limit free speech on one’s own property, which I don’t think Jason is objecting to.”

      Unfortunately, we don’t live in Ancapistan so not everything is private and not arguing against the idea of absolute private property is irrelevant in a practical sense. The STATE’s ownership, funding, and care of migrants encourages their behaviour and creates forced integration against the will of seemingly large swaths of Americans, that would otherwise not have to associate with said migrants in a private society. I think people forget that there is no “freedom of movement” in a private society.

      That in itself is a violation of property rights and the continued subsidization and holding of public property is a violation that would not occur in a private society. Thus, it can easily be said that voting to restrict immigration is not only a libertarian stance, but the only true libertarian stance. This is completely leaving out the libertarian social order argument, which stands rather well on it’s own.

      • Jonathan Gress

        I’m not sure what you mean by the State’s “ownership” of migrants, but I agree with you insofar as subsidizing immigration is concerned, with respect to allowing immigrants to enjoy benefits paid for by others. But isn’t then the solution to bar them from using those benefits, to stop subsidizing them? The libertarian solution should not be to ban them from coming at all, since it possible they may actually be invited by the current inhabitants, e.g. to take a job.

        • Matthew Reece

          The state does not own the migrants, but immigration is a government program. Perhaps that is what Jared means.

          The best solution aside from privatizing the border is to end the subsidies, but if neither of these can be done, the third best thing is to have immigration restrictions.

          • Jonathan Gress

            OK, immigration restrictions as third best thing. But these restrictions have to be carefully thought out. You can’t have a blanket ban on Muslims, say, because some Muslims may be specifically invited by current inhabitants, e.g. to take up a job. As far as I can tell, the only restrictions consistent with libertarianism would be a ban on admitting immigrants that we know, for certain, will draw on the taxpayer. Anything less specific or certain or targeted at a broad ethnicity, even if that ethnicity might preponderate among welfare recipients, is invalid because you will be excluding those who are invited, which is scarcely better than including those who are not invited.

            For this reason, I think immigration restrictions are a deeply unsatisfactory solution from the libertarian perspective. I think you could construct similar justifications for things like drug prohibition: drug use causes health problems that are burdens on the state. Obviously, the correct answer is not drug prohibition but private healthcare, which forces individuals to bear the costs of their own decisions, but you could argue that the latter is politically impossible, so drug prohibition it is. But as we see, the cost of enforcement may well outweigh the benefits, not to mention the fact that they are intrinsically objectionable as state-imposed limits on individual freedom.

            Likewise with immigration restrictions. They are state-imposed limits on individual freedom. You can construct cost-benefit analyses to justify the restrictions, but they will never truly capture the cost, which only the free market can do. I believe arguing for immigration restrictions is a distraction for the libertarian cause. Current immigration patterns are a problem, but the state is never the solution.

        • Jared

          Poorly phrased, my apologies, I typed it rather quickly. My point was that since the state owns public lands, roads, thoroughfares etc the natural barriers that would be created in a private society have been torn down by the state. As well as the fact that their migration is being subsidized by the state.

          If people are invited into communities isn’t at all what is happening with an open borders government policy because of this. I have no problem with people inviting migrants into their private communities, it’s neither any of my business nor anyone else’s.

          In reference to your comment below:

          Yes, absolutely I would never call for blanket bans as a governmental policy unless the ban was calling for complete immigration restriction until such time all public lands could be sold. I think asking only for those migrants that would add to the labor force and create wealth is a good start, which I think you’d agree with. I do think allowing migrants to come here seeking benefits is absolutely insane and invites disastrous problems like Germany and the UK are experiencing.

          Your argument about drug prohibition is a fair criticism but i don’t see them as nearly the same argument. Drug prohibition affects public health in welfare services just like immigration I agree. However, drugs themselves aren’t nearly the same as migrants in that drug use beyond the medical implication costs we agree on, aren’t other people infringing upon any rights of anyone else. Freedom of association vs a non existant freedom of movement as it were. These migrants have no right to be here unless invited by individuals or communities which seemingly they have not in a free society. Drugs and drug users don’t have to be invited their right to use drugs is inherent, where a migrants freedom of movement is solely determinant on a contract made with a private community or individual.

          I’m not arguing consequentialism at all, so cost benefit is nearly irrelevant to me. I look at consequentialism as a branch of the “greater good” argument.

    • Matthew Reece

      These are not non sequiturs. If one wishes to assert one’s private property rights in a statist society, the only methods of doing so are to use the state or forcefully resist the state. His point about collective ownership justifying every possible use of power is true but trivial because collective ownership is an invalid concept.

      • Jonathan Gress

        Sure collective ownership is invalid, but arguments for state restrictions on immigration rely on it.

  • Coralyn Herenschrict

    I find the original FEE article to be woefully off-base from the core issue qua libertarianism. It posits all sorts of fanciful made-up “rights” like a “right to freedom of movement” and “right to self-determination.”

    To my mild horror and shock above I find the ordinarily meticulously thin libertarian Matthew doing likewise. Matthew posits a “right to life” no different than that which is cited by those defending a “right to healthcare.” And posits a “right to emergency easement,” which is simply an expression of the notion that one man’s need, if great enough to pass the impossible to define standard of “an emergency”, overrides another man’s property right.

    All the above made up “rights” are balderdash. They all necessarily come into conflict with the one and only true right, the right to private property. All else is subordinate to that. Private property includes human physical bodies, plots of land, material goods.

    No libertarian questions private property border enforcement. The only issue with immigration arises with the status of stolen property, aka “public property.” Hoppe’s spurious arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, stolen property is unowned property akin to unhomesteaded property. There simply is no philosophical justification for the use of force by some men against other men to prevent them from occupying, using, or seizing stolen property. It’s a moral issue and it’s that simple.

    • Fred Bastiat

      Libertarianism is Statism Lite, all the coercion and contradictions, without the responsibility.

      • Coralyn Herenschrict

        Capital L Libertarianism, a la minarchism, yes. Thick libertarianism maybe. Thin libertarianism I consider synonymous with anarcho-capitalism, i.e. the real deal.

    • Matthew Reece

      The “right of emergency easement” is just another way of expressing the result of a conflict between two negative rights: the right to life and the right to property. The right to property is dependent upon the right to life (dead people cannot own or maintain property), so the right to life is more powerful than the right to property. The right to life is not something I merely posit; it is a restatement of self-ownership, which is the most fundamental right.

      Note that this conflict only occurs when a person’s death is imminent and the only way the person can stay alive is to violate property rights, and this is what I mean by “an emergency.” This is admittedly an attempt to deal with a lifeboat scenario.

      The best claim to stolen property is held by the people from whom it was stolen, not by foreigners who are invited in by the thieves to receive stolen resources.

      • Coralyn Herenschrict

        There is only right, a negative right, the right to property. You confuse the negative right to one’s own body with the positive right to have one’s own body continue in a living state, i.e. the right to life.

        Let’s say you start a business that outcompetes mine, causing my profits to fall, causing my life to falter when I get cancer and can’t pay for the treatments. I could claim you have violated my “right to life.” Bzzzt. The right to property in my physical body is all I really have. The fact my body is living now is not guaranteed to continue living by nature nor by other men. The fact I must be alive to claim ownership of anything is true, but does not constitute an obligation on other men to keep me living. Not at all, much less by way of compromise of their property rights. Keeping my body living within the constraints of respect for property rights is my problem alone to worry about.

        You would dispense with respect for property rights when death is “imminent” (in whose eyes? with what degree of certainty?). A right to life allows the starving man to steal food from those who produced it. A right to life allows the mortally ill man to steal medicine from those who produced it. A right to life allows need to trump property.

        Libertarian thinkers have studied various lifeboat scenarios involving trivial violations and concluded violation of property rights is necessarily and always aggression. Whether the victim would not forgive such an understandable trespass is a separate matter and realistically only the most unempathetic bastard wouldn’t and in so doing would probably reap costly social ostracism as a result.

        To remain non-aggressive, an owner cannot continue to assert an exclusive claim on stolen property once outside his control and in the possession of an aggressor using that property to commit further aggressions. Otherwise the owner becomes a conspirator lending material aid to the aggressor and thereby forfeits his property right in the stolen item on that basis. Self-defense from incremental aggression takes priority over restitution for previous aggression.

        For example, a thief steals my gun and goes on a killing spree. Potential victims attempt to knock the gun out of the killer’s hand asserting their right of self-defense, but I hold them back, ordering them not to damage my property. My claim cannot be used to shield an aggressor from acts depriving him of resources. Once I no longer have any use and control over a resource, once I no longer have any responsibility for how it is used, I cannot claim the privilege of commanding it, I can only act against the aggressor to get restitution from him and from him alone – not at the expense of any others.

        Acts that partially restitute some people but inherently constitute new acts of aggression in so doing are immoral. A victim using state violence against the state is fine. A victim using state violence against other innocents to gain compensation at their expense is not fine. Many innocents wish to hire and host individuals living far away (“foreigners”) on their property. Their rights to do so cannot be incrementally violated as part of pleasing a different group of victims not wishing to host such individuals who are upset that thieves are not blocking them from occupying nearby stolen property or that thieves are stealing more citing their presence as an excuse. The thieves are the only people one may morally use force against. Not other innocents.

        • Matthew Reece

          The negative right to one’s own body implies a right to take action to have one’s own body continue in a living state, as rejecting this makes such a right a moot point. If it helps, I can restate the right to life as a property right in one’s body and restate the conflicting rights as the property right in one’s body versus another person’s property right in an external object.

          If I start a business that out-competes yours, causing your profits to fall, your life may falter when you get cancer and can’t pay for the treatments, but I did not cause this; your lack of ability to compete with me caused this. You could not truthfully claim that I have violated your right to life because I have committed no aggression against you. The only way you could avail yourself of any property of mine is if there exists no other means by which you may keep yourself alive, you are not threatening my ability to stay alive by doing so, and you are not taking any more than what you must have to stay alive. Of course, death must be objectively imminent and certain for this rights conflict to arise.

          Libertarian thinkers have studied various lifeboat scenarios involving trivial violations and concluded violation of property rights is necessarily and always aggression, and I disagree. That said, the extent of my disagreement is small enough that “only the most unempathetic bastard” would take a hard line “and in so doing would probably reap costly social ostracism as a result.”

          If an owner cannot continue to assert an exclusive claim on stolen property once outside his control and in the possession of an aggressor using that property to commit further aggressions, then all an aggressor need do to get away with theft is to steal something and start using it to commit more crimes. This is absurd.

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            “The negative right to one’s own body implies a right to take action to have one’s own body continue in a living state,”

            Not any action. Only actions that respect the negative rights of others. For example, I have a negative right to my car as a physical possession. Does this imply a right to take action violating the property rights of others in order to keep my car running? May I steal gasoline, spare fan belts, and replacement parts citing a right to keep my car running? Obviously not. So no matter how badly I need my car to run, if it stops running, that’s my problem to solve within the boundaries of respect for property.

            “The only way you could avail yourself of any property of mine is if
            there exists no other means by which you may keep yourself alive.”

            This is 100% unlibertarian and utterly sacrifices the concept of property rights. I’m sure many project dwellers and government entitlement recipients assert with sincerity they have no other means to keep themselves alive than as dependents on productive people. Today millions of people around the world suffer and die from malnutrition and illness. They can sincerely say they have no other means to keep themselves alive than by looting the wealth of richer people. Your line of reasoning would sanction all these people employing force against producers for them to live indefinitely as leeches. Your line of reasoning restated is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (to stay alive).” We’ve seen what happens when communist and socialist societies put need above property rights.

            “…then all an aggressor need do to get away with theft is to steal something and start using it to commit more crimes.”

            No, I said the victim may not assert an exclusive claim, i.e. one that excludes others from seizing the stolen loot away from the aggressor. Obviously, the victim may continue to forcibly assert his property rights via seeking restitution at the expense of the aggressor. The victim simply may not prohibit others from asserting their rights of self-defense against the aggressor even if that means loss or degradation of the stolen property.

          • Matthew Reece

            Your property right to your car and other people’s property rights to their car parts are on the same level, therefore the rights conflict does not occur and you do not get to steal to maintain your car. The property right to your body is on a higher level than property rights to external objects.

            I am also sure that many project dwellers and government entitlement recipients assert with sincerity they have no other means to keep themselves alive than as dependents on productive people, and that millions of people around the world suffer and die from malnutrition and illness who can sincerely say they have no other means to keep themselves alive than by looting the wealth of richer people. This does not make their claims objectively true or provable. Only objectively true and provable claims count.

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            That’s my whole point. Your supposed “right to life” that supersedes property rights necessarily entails violation of property rights in order to be enforced.

            I own my body like my car. But if my body begins to fail for lack of food, medicine, or a vital organ, in order to assert a “right to life” I must forcibly take the food, medicine, or vital organs of other people who own those things. My right to life necessarily conflicts with others’ right to property. You are claiming when it comes to my physical body failing to operate, my right to keep it operating is at a higher level than others’ rights to their property. No?

            A threat to my right to life is easy to come by. I just sit on my hands and stop earning anything. A genuine urgent need for food will arise. According to you, this state constitutes an automatic claim on other’s earnings. You claim one individual’s shortfall of life-sustaining property constitutes an entitlement allowing him to forcibly deprive another individual of his life-sustaining property – so long as his need meets a standard of “objectively true and provable.”

            Is that objective standard etched on a rock somewhere? Set by a neutral third party with authority to make such determinations for others….like government? How is level of need to be evaluated? What units is need measured in so I can prove my case of sufficient need to a government tribunal? Which committee of men will set and enforce such “objective” standards of need that others must obey? Or do you, like the ancoms, think anarchic principles will support forced redistribution of property from those who earned it to those who need it? If so, how do you think those who earned property will react when someone else comes calling to claim it based on his need?

            The belief that property rights may be disregarded under certain conditions of need is socialism. There is nothing uncommon about the belief in socialism. Many, many people share the belief along with you that need trumps property and so force may be used to redistribute property when need crosses some threshold. Leading to the society we have today. It sounds like you accept the principle of socialism, you simply feel modern socialism is far too liberal in its choice of a standard for need and you’d prefer a far more conservative standard for need. I think a lot of conservatives out there share your views.

            My only beef then is that you fly an ancap flag while simultaneously arguing for disregard for property rights under certain conditions. That is misrepresentation of your beliefs and is not cool. Anarcho-capitalism holds as a defining principle that private property is sacrosanct.

          • Matthew Reece

            No, you do not own your body like you own your car. You own your body through exclusive direct control. You own your car through indirect control; you must exercise control over your body in order to exercise control over your car.

            Because one inherently consents to what one does to oneself, one cannot commit acts of aggression against oneself. Thus, the threat to your life that would allow you to violate external property rights to keep yourself alive cannot be of your own making; it must be as a result of external aggression.

            In a free society, such cases would be decided by private courts (as would everything else). The level of need, as I said, is that it must be true and provable that there is no other way to keep oneself alive. In practice, the rarity of the circumstances coupled with the difficulty of proving the case means that these rights conflicts may never happen.

            This is not an argument that property rights should be disregarded. It is an argument that direct property rights in a person’s body overrule indirect property rights in external objects if the two should come into conflict. Nor is it an argument for socialism; if one is able to get someone to forcibly redistribute wealth to keep one alive, then one will have other options available. Also note that such force could threaten the lives of other property owners, and this violates the conditions under which such an appropriation would be valid.

            An example of what we are talking about here is a man who is kidnapped, taken into a helicopter, and left in a wasteland to die. He tries to save himself, and with only minutes remaining before he would collapse and die, he finds a single berry bush owned by someone else who does not want him there. The only way he can keep himself alive is to eat some berries, so he may pick and eat the bare minimum that will sustain him, taking none for the road. And he may only do this if the bush’s owner does not need the berries to keep himself alive. Then he must leave.

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            “the threat to your life that would allow you to violate external property rights to keep yourself alive cannot be of your own making; it must be as a result of external aggression.”

            A distinction without a relevant difference. This merely transmits unjustly received victimization from oneself onto another innocent. Block argues eloquently one “homesteads misery,” i.e. one cannot assert a right to transfer one’s unjust losses onto some other innocent person, just because the losses are unjust. If a thief robs me of bread, I may not claim a right to seize my neighbor’s bread because, well, I gotta eat to live, and to hell with my neighbor’s property rights. You argue that I can take my neighbor’s bread, and yes, to hell with my neighbor’s property rights.

            “This is not an argument that property rights should be disregarded. It is an argument that direct property rights in a person’s body overrule indirect property rights in external objects if the two should come into conflict. Nor is it an argument for socialism…Also note that such force could threaten the lives of other property owners, and this violates the conditions under which such an appropriation would be valid.”

            You just explained why your position contradicts itself and it is an argument that property rights should be disregarded. You may fail to see this because you continue to lump two different things together: 1) the negative right to your own body which says no one may initiate force against your body (we agree on this) and 2) the positive right to keep your own body living requiring a steady supply of resources (private property) be provided at someone’s expense to keep your body living (we disagree on this).

            Direct control of private property does not imbue it with elevated status, giving it superiority to indirectly controlled private property. That’s like saying “All private property is equal, but some is more equal than others.” No. Private property is private property. All private property equally bears the same prohibition against initiatory force violating it. Since valuations of property are subjective, no one may claim one form of private property to be objectively more valuable than another, and cite that as justification for using initiatory force to violate another’s property.

            Because you fail to recognize that a right to life is exactly the same as a claim on external resources regardless of their ownership, you fail to appreciate the very assertion of a right to life inherently subordinates and thus invalidates private property rights in case of conflict. You argue property rights may be invalidated based on individual need in certain cases. I don’t know what to call that concept other than socialism, because it’s certainly not capitalism.

            In the case of the helicopter ride, the kidnapper is obviously the aggressor with respect to trespass because he is using the innocent victim’s body as if an inanimate object of trespass. The victim is innocent of trespass because his body was involuntarily placed by the kidnapper on that wasteland property. Agreed, if the victim exits post haste, he is innocent of trespass. However if the victim voluntarily chooses to eat berries while on that land, he is the aggressor with respect to the berries. Now, I would eat the berries too in order to stay alive. And then I would take full responsibility for my aggressive act against the landowner. And any remotely empathetic landowner would almost certainly forgive my berry aggression or accept compensation for them. I would of course turn around and sue the kidnapper for full restitution. But I would never claim a right to the landowner’s berries just because I suffered the misfortune of being kidnapped and I have a need to feed myself. My hunger does not override the landowner’s property rights.

            You say private courts would recognize need as superior to property in various scenarios. Well, if some landowners agreed to such rules, then yes. Just like if landowners agreed to communistic property sharing based on need then voluntary courts would enforce that. Where your ideas are going to run into trouble is when you invade the private property of someone not part of your need-based value system. Someone who believes private property is sacrosanct. When you seize his stuff, citing your need as justification, he’s going to shoot you.

            I believe that sacrosanct respect for private property is more productive a value scheme to live by than values that dispense with private property under certain conditions for one reason or another. So I believe those who live by strict respect for property will, on average, end up with better resources and will be able to defeat anyone trying to steal their property. And rightly so, I might add.

          • Bob

            “lending material aid to the aggressor” That’s absurd. Having your money taken under duress is not “lending.” Though I agree with your broader point that property is all we can have with 100% ethical consistently. All the stuff about “life” is Ersatz.

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            Thanks for the read and glad we agree on the core issue – that property rights are sacrosanct above all else.

            Citing the property rights of oneself as an innocent victim to justify aiding the violation of the property rights of other innocent victims is a contradictory position.

            If stolen property is put into service aggressively violating other property, the prohibitions on invasion of the stolen property must be surrendered by its owner if he wishes to remain non-aggressive. Else he becomes aggressive through his attempt to safeguard the means of an active aggressor, and his property rights become forfeit on that account.

            Once the aggressor is subdued, the owner can make a restitutive claim on his assets to compensate him for his previously stolen property.

            But one cannot attempt to simultaneously enjoy the privileges of property ownership – prohibiting others from invading that property – while also repudiating responsibility for aggressive uses of that property. The privileges and the responsibilities of property ownership go together as a package.

          • Bob

            “Citing the property rights of oneself as an innocent victim to justify
            aiding the violation of the property rights of other innocent victims is
            a contradictory position.” Yes, agreed on the pure ethics point. I was just saying that calling it “lending” truly is absurd when coercion is involved. 🙂

            I think it’s also interesting to observe that, as you hinted elsewhere in your comments, that a lot of people (including you, me, and the original author) would probably show at least a little compassion for our fellow man and there are probably lots of scenarios where we wouldn’t personally choose to use violence against someone for a minor property rights violation (even though we could ethically justify it). That doesn’t change the pure ethics of it, though it’s interesting to notice anyway. It’s easy to imagine there being a social custom where at least some minimal level of compassion is very common, even though it’s not ethically guaranteed.

            You could even imagine some groups of people engaging voluntarily with one another to formalize certain social norms and advertising their acceptance of those norms through appropriate use of signage / registration into an appropriate repository / etc.

            I’ve heard some people advocate for pragmatic use of a rule of thumb where you ask yourself “what would the property owner allow if they knew the details of my situation?” If the person who was just about to release the universal cure for cancer was fleeing for their life from pro-cancer thugs and they hid themselves on my property when I wasn’t around — even if it meant breaking my fence, breaking a window in my house, etc — I would want them to do that. I would want them to be safe, and if I was around I would authorize them to do whatever was necessary to save themselves. Since I wasn’t around to authorize it, though, the person who (ostensibly) violated my property rights would have no way of knowing for sure if I would allow it or not. This is clearly not a pure ethical principle, though it’s interesting as a rough heuristic.

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            Well stated, Bob. I like how you think.

            Let me clarify my position, as I think there may be a disconnect around “lending.” The “lending material aid” happens not when my gun is stolen by an aggressor, Adam. It happens after that, when that gun is used to threaten against another innocent victim, Victoria. At that point, Victoria is able and would like to knock the gun out of Adam’s hand and into the ocean to defend herself. Or goes to steal the gun from Adam, or spike the gun to destroy it, etc. etc. “Lending aid” would be me at this point interjecting, shouting, “No! That’s my gun! You can’t damage it!”

            If I do so, I am attempting to retain an ownership claim even after the gun has left my use and control and has been repurposed to aggressive use. This is a voluntary choice on my part, so it is lending aid to an aggressor because I am not making the only moral choice possible – surrendering my claim on the gun, more freeing Victoria to sieze it, destroy it, homsestead it, do anything, everything, and whatever it takes to remove the gun from aggressive use. The non-aggression principle means a property owner has an obligation to ensure his property is not used for aggression, and the only way to do that if the property is involuntarily removed from his control is to renounce his ownership of the property to completely free other innocents to do as they will with that formerly owned property without moral concern.

            I like and am onboard with your notion of “What would the property owner want?” with the caveat that if you guess wrong, the responsibility for violating someone else’s property still remains squarely on you. Practically speaking, rough guidelines around exceptional situations or choices of individual arbiters with a particular mindset about such matters would have been voluntarily chosen by all parties in advance of such potential ill-defined conflicts, precisely because they are ill-defined and having a reasonable place for the buck to stop is in the best interests of all parties.

          • “Direct control of private property does not imbue it with elevated status, giving it superiority to indirectly controlled private property. That’s like saying “All private property is equal, but some is more equal than others.” ”
            I would also question whether a paraplegic person still owns the legs they can no longer directly control with the same level of legitimacy as able-bodied persons do despite losing direct control over them, and to take it further whether or not I could forcibly remove and eat said person’s paralyzed legs should we be snowed in for days and not doing so could very well cost me my life?

          • Coralyn Herenschrict

            Nice point. That a paraplegic has lost some measure of direct control over his legs, retaining only indirect control over them, does not make them any less his exclusive private property that may not be violated by others regardless of the extent of their need.

            To be consistent, people who assert such a thing as a “right to life” exists would have to sanction a starving person eating the paraplegic’s legs without his consent, because they hold that one person’s “right to life” trumps another person’s right to his private property.

  • BOTH articles obfuscate–with excruciating minutiathe goal of LIBERTY.

    Immigration control leads to LESS liberty and MORE government control. It is an absurd “tactic” for anyone who’s alleged goal is liberty.

    If welfare is a problem, abolish government welfare rather than expand government into immigration control!

    If drugs are a problem, abolish the government drug war rather than expand government into immigration control!

    If crime is a problem, carry a gun and buy insurance rather than authorize government agents to kill with impunity!

    If refugees are a problem, stop government from dropping bombs on their houses rather than expanding government extortion of even more taxes to built and maintain walls around this nation-wide FEMA camp.

    If privacy is a problem, put a fence and locked gate around your own privately owned property rather than advocate government violation of my freedom to travel and to associate with others.

    “If you want to BE free, you must do things that MAKE you free!” Advocating MORE government is NOT the answer.

    “Libertarians” seem to have lost the understanding of the root word: LIBERTY

    • Coralyn Herenschrict

      Amen.

    • Matthew Reece

      These are the ideal solutions. The discussion is about what to do when those solutions are not on the table and no one is willing to do what is required to put them on the table.

      • LIBERTY *IS* the ideal. Advocating MORE government guarantees that LIBERTY gets pushed off “the table”.

        I don’t care if people want to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I DO OBJECT to them pretending to be “libertarians” and I have given the reasons why.