The new definition of libertarianism: May I see your documents please?

On the surface it looks like David Farrer has found an instance where increasing immigration controls is compatible with a libertarian outlook.

David Farrer quotes Murray Rothbard:

…[O]n rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have “open borders” at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors…

And here is Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

…[P]opulation movements, unlike product shipments, are not per se mutually beneficial events because they are not always necessarily and invariably the result of an agreement between a specific receiver and sender.

This is a reasonable explanation (at last!) as to why free movement of people could be bad while free movement of goods is always beneficial. But this land is a place where you could find yourself having to go down on bended knee and ask permission from the land owner to cross the road. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this is what DK thinks of when he describes himself as ‘libertarian’ (although it possibly is what David Farrer thinks of).

Whether you would actually have to ask permission to cross the road or not is a different matter. But in this world, if people are guaranteed the ability to walk to the shops it is described as “compulsory opening”. The easy and obvious answer to this is the fact that if you were to ask people whether or not they wanted to live in such a world, almost everybody would say ‘no’.

That’s in a totally privatised world. But in a more realistic world where there is (small) government the picture changes somewhat. Here, the government’s main (only?) role is to protect individuals’ property.

…if the government admits a person while there exists no domestic resident who wants to have this person on his property, the result is forced integration.

I’m guessing that, if we are being consistent, it is also the case that if a person is allowed to enter Edinburgh from Glasgow while no Edinburgh resident wants him there the result is also “forced integration”. If it isn’t, what makes the Glasgow–Edinburgh case so different to, say, the Tallinn–Edinburgh case?

At all ports of entry and along its borders, the government, as trustee of its citizens, must check all newly arriving persons for an entrance ticket — a valid invitation by a domestic property owner — and everyone not in possession of such a ticket will have to be expelled at his own expense.

This is a bit strange to me as surely such an arrangement would exhibit almost all of the traits that are meant to make big government so abhorrent. No doubt the administration costs would be hopelessly high and the bureaucracy would be sprawling. Not to mention that the Big Brother aspect is present in full force here.

Infact, the only thing this plan seems to have going for it is the fact that the government is carrying out its role to protect private property. A-woo-hoo if you think that’s the only important thing in life. For everybody else, this plan must be seen as too ridiculously authoritarian.

In this world there will be property owners who want their property to be protected from people as a whole, not just people from foreign countries. So if the government has to check people “at all ports of entry and along its borders” to stop unwanted foreign people from trespassing on private land, surely it has check people walking down the street aswell to ensure that unwanted people are not trespassing on private land.

Hang on a minute, that rings a bell.

David Farrer and DK both strongly oppose ID cards on libertarian grounds. Yet what we have in this proposed libertarian world is a de facto ID card (or the slightly fluffier “entrance ticket”) scheme. This ‘libertarian’ world is not a world where you can be free to walk the streets without being asked your identity. But that shouldn’t be a surprise since it isn’t even a world where you are free to walk the streets.

2 comments

  1. “So if the government has to check people “at all ports of entry and along its borders” to stop unwanted foreign people from trespassing on private land, surely it has check people walking down the street aswell to ensure that unwanted people are not trespassing on private land.”

    Nope – not at all. This right is assumed for all people inside the country – that’s the whole point: once checked in at the border you too have the right to be in the street.

  2. Not so. “A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire.”

    Surely the whole point of private property is that the right to be in the street is not assumed for all people inside the country at all. As long as property owners decide that their property is “closed” nobody has any right to walk on the street.