One has to be careful when making an argument for closing borders. The problem is that many of the arguments people offer lead to conclusions they are not prepared to endorse. The arguments for closing borders appear not just to be arguments for closing borders, but for censorship, voting restrictions, eugenics, internal migration restrictions, and more. Or, if they’re not, closed border advocates rarely show us why not.

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

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?

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.

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 moving there? If banning rap music reduced crime, would you favor that?

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?

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?

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?

Etc.

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. 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.

Consider how Paul Collier might respond. He thinks that as a matter of fact, banning certain immigrants would help prevent an illiberal culture from forming. He might respond that, given the facts, we don’t need to censor people, indoctrinate them, or ban certain religions. He might be right. But we can still ask him, “Would you in principle be willing to do those things, if the facts were different? If, e.g., allowing people to convert to Islam turned out to be just as dangerous as you think allowing immigrants from Afghanistan, would you favor banning Islam, in order to maintain a liberal culture committed to the rule of law?” We doubt he’d say yes.

PS: Sorry for not posting much lately.Β Our website isn’t working well for me over the past two weeks; it usually crashes when I go to add a new post. Last time I tried to edit a post it disappeared.

UPDATE: Ooh, I got WordPress to work again! Some typos fixed.

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  • Jason Kuznicki

    Obvious comment, perhaps, but it seems like a lot of people have already made exactly the sort of intellectual migration you describe here.

  • Jameson Graber

    It’s really frustrating to constantly hear the argument that if we don’t limit immigration, we won’t be able to preserve our liberal culture. My response is that a society which doesn’t tolerate open immigration isn’t very liberal.

    Still, I’m not entirely satisfied leaving it at that. To some extent, liberal ideas *do* need to be inculcated. All the great classical liberals from our own nation’s history believed education was crucial to forming citizens equipped for freedom. What is the line between formation and indoctrination? It’s not always clear.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      I would say that one hallmark of a liberal culture is that its members enjoy the freedom to say or write ANYTHING without fear of being killed for it. I would think that Holland circa 2004 qualified. That year witnessed the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in broad daylight on the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim immigrant. At that time van Gogh was making a documentary critical of Islam. His collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, received so many death threats she was forced to flee the country. Now, only those willing to risk death can criticize Islam there. Surely, it is at least possible for a liberal nation to become less so as a result of large scale migration.

      • It’s the large scale – and over a short time-period – that I think is important, and which Jason misses.

      • Jameson Graber

        You bring up a very legitimate concern, namely the protection of citizens within a liberal society, but then you couch it within the topic of liberal “culture.” I don’t see any evidence that the danger now faced by artists and provocateurs in Europe is due to a cultural shift. Most Muslims in Europe have become more moderate over time–the longer they’re in Europe and the more prosperous they are, the more European they become in their attitudes. The problem is the presence of a few extremists who commit acts of terrorism. But that’s a question of balancing concerns about security with concerns about individual liberty. It doesn’t fit into an abstract framework of preserving culture.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          I was commenting on your statement: “My response is that a society which doesn’t tolerate open immigration isn’t very liberal.” Well, a number of European countries that were unmistakably “liberal” prior to large scale Muslim immigration are now much less so, and not just due to a few extremists. In most major European cities with large Muslim populations–Paris, Marseille, Copenhagen, Malmo, Berlin–it is impossible for a person recognizable as Jewish to walk around without fear of verbal harassment, threats, and actual physical assault. Similarly, it would be dangerous for two men to hold hands while walking through a Muslim neighborhood. It is dangerous now to mock Muhammad in these countries. If you can’t see the cause and effect, there’s nothing more I can say.

          • Jameson Graber

            Many women have made a point of showing how it is impossible for them to walk in any major city “fear of verbal harassment, threats, and actual physical assault.” That is not a problem which arises only from immigration. That’s why Brennan’s point is so trenchant–so many concerns brought up by people debating immigration are equally pertinent in many other situations, so why focus on foreigners?

            Also, antisemitism is hardly new, and is still found today among many white Europeans. For all this talk about preserving our liberal culture, we might want to be a little more introspective and ask how liberal we ever were.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            “Why focus on foreigners?” Because unlike citizens, who are entitled to all the moral rights enshrined in the constitution, foreigners can justly be denied a generic right of migration if this threatens the rule of law here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2016/02/internal-migration-and-open-borders/#more-1234.

            Even apart from this, you ignore the concept of marginal cost. Yeah, women can’t walk in pubic in some places here, so now we will add Jews, gays, etc.

          • Sean II

            There is also a perfectly good consequentialist reason to focus on foreigners when they clearly do more of whatever objectionable thing one is trying to prevent.

            It’s facile bullshit to say “native Europeans commit rape too”, when the RATE at which they do so is negligible compared to the rape rate among migrants.

            It’s like saying: “How dare you ban rabbits as an invasive species and a threat to lettuce production when everyone knows dogs are capable of devouring lettuce too.”

            The answer is: because rabbitts eat more.

          • King Goat

            “There is also a perfectly good consequentialist reason to focus on
            foreigners when they do more of whatever objectionable one is trying to
            prevent.”

            I’m still waiting for Sean II to call for the crack down on men like himself. After all, men are more likely to commit all kinds of illiberal crimes compared to women, at ratios higher than the many racial and ethnic groups he targets compared to whites.

          • Ethan Trice

            it’s like no one here even understands the word “pragmatism”. You can’t ban all men because then your culture would cease to exist after your generation.

          • APΒ²

            Well, migrant men rape a lot more. If we’re going to be discerning, we shouldn’t use that argument to prevent the immigration of women.

          • Sean II

            As many besides me have noted, most of the migrants coming into Europe are men.

            But sure, if you like, I have no objection to a migrant policy – nor especially to a refugee policy – that gives preference to women.

          • Hollis Butts

            All real American men enthusiastically support the immigration of women.

          • King Goat

            “women can’t walk in pubic in some places here”

            Lol

          • Jameson Graber

            I just don’t buy that theory of rights. It seems so arbitrary. Someone who is naturalized is now magically entitled to “all the moral rights enshrined in the constitution,” but someone shut out by an arbitrary limit doesn’t? I believe that rights, whatever they are, belong to all human beings, not based on their place of citizenship.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Read the link I provided, which addresses this argument head on.

          • King Goat

            It’s interesting to note that the text of the Constitution differentiates between citizens and non-citizens only with the right of voting. Maybe those Founders were on to something about rights?

          • HelloFeds

            Antisemitism isn’t new but it has been brought wholesale into Islamic discourses through the works of Sayd Qutb and others. Public opinion polls show that anti-Semitic beliefs are widespread throughout Muslim nations and in Muslim immigrants to Europe, and anti-Semitic crimes have swung up sharply. This is in fact a problem that stems from Muslim immigration to Europe.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            That does seem rather obvious, but many libertarians seem determined to ignore it.

          • Ethan Trice

            “antisemitism is hardly new”. Yeah, historically there’s been antisemitism in Europe, but the Jews are fleeing in record numbers from Europe now (highest rate since before WW2).

          • Ethan Trice

            Yes, it’s already a problem, but it’s a far greater problem amongst the migrants (hugely disproportionate crime). Whenever I see that argument, I just think of a man trying to put gasoline on a fire. I’m telling the man “no, that’ll make it worse” and the man adding the gas anyway because “there’s already a fire, so why complain about more fire when you’ve already got fire to begin with”

          • Sean II

            Or they say: “I prefer to think of the fire as being caused by the local oxygen. Focusing on the gasoline and the ignition source would be wrong.”

            See: Larsson, Stieg

    • Sean II

      So then Switzerland’s not a liberal society?

      • Jameson Graber

        That’s an odd example. I suppose Switzerland is known for its economic liberalism, but everyone I’ve ever heard try to live there has found it to be a pretty illiberal place in a lot of ways.

        • Sean II

          Painful to watch anyone bite such a bullet.

          • Jameson Graber

            Do you even know anything about Switzerland?

          • Sean II

            Do you even know how desperate you look trying to escape into the tiny specifics of one example?

            What’s your end-game here? Force me to say “okay, if you don’t like Switzerland, take New Zealand instead?”

            Where does that get you, in terms of the main argument?

          • Jameson Graber

            I think my end game is to stop before I waste more time on another discussion with Sean II. In terms of the main argument, I’m not sure you have one, so it doesn’t really matter.

          • Sean II

            Man, you always do that, get all testy when the only provocation going is that someone noticed your argument sucks.

            You said a society with closed borders can’t be liberal.

            I gave you two examples (out of many I could have) showing mostly liberal societies with mostly closed borders, and you get pissy right away.

            Probably a sign of hidden strength in your position. No way could it be a sign of “you haven’t really thought this through”. No way could it be hostility doing the work of panic.

          • King Goat

            “I gave you two examples (out of many I could have) showing mostly liberal societies with mostly closed borders”

            One in five people in Switzerland are permanent foreign residents.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Switzerland#/media/File:Switzerland,_permanent_foreign_residents_as_%25_of_total_population,_1900-2011.png

      • King Goat

        ‘Libertarians’ invoking Switzerland as a liberal exemplar=priceless.

      • TheJeebus

        A full one third of Switzerland’s adult population is immigrants.

        • Sean II

          Utterly non-responsive. Having a large immigrant population (which Switzerland indeed does) is not the same thing as having an OPEN BORDER. And you might have noticed the Swiss manage to end up with a suspiciously European group of immigrants, indicating some discernment at the door.

          Look, it’s not my fault people like Jason insist on calling it for open borders – which Switzerland does not have, and which indeed no one has.

          If he’d titled this post “benefits of a bias toward allowing immigration, with a shut-off valve at the ready just in case”, he’d have no argument from me. Nor from the Swiss, who have their hand clenched on that valve as we speak.

          • King Goat

            “Having a large immigrant population (which Switzerland indeed does) is not the same thing as having an OPEN BORDER.”

            Jesus, it’s self-parody now.

          • King Goat

            “And you might have noticed the Swiss manage to end up with a
            suspiciously European group of immigrants, indicating some, ahem,
            discernment at the door.”

            This is Sean II’s move because it’s been pointed out that Switzerland actually has a really big foreign born population. Interestingly though one should note that Switzerland has the same percent of its population that is Muslim as Mark’s frequently cited Islamo-hell-hole the Netherlands.

    • Ethan Trice

      Yeah, it sure is liberal to have a bunch of Shariah patrols. When radicals outnumber you in your home country and then get their own president, their own supreme court, and their own legislature to change the laws to Shariah for all, I’m sure we can all pat ourselves on the back and say “at least we defended liberty for a couple decades”. I saw below you said that the Muslims become more moderate in Europe. That’s true for some of them, but the Paris attackers were done by both Muslims raised in Europe and by Muslim “refugees”. The radicalization of Islam worldwide is growing and has been since 1979.

  • David

    Where’s the Collier argument you’re responding to–is it in Exodus?

  • IEIUNUS

    Perhaps immigrants themselves have an obligation not to emigrate to the United States, or anywhere that provisions extensive welfare benefits per non-consensual expropriation. In the context of takings by the government of current citizens, potential citizens have an incentive, depending on their current occupation, to emigrate to places like the United States. To emigrate to the United States may be an immoral act on the part of the immigrant.

    It is as if someone forcibly expropriated funds from A, so that B, should she make the concerted effort to emigrate from her current place of occupation to another that provisions such welfare, has a greater incentive to move in the first place.

  • Jerome Bigge

    We created the situation in Mexico that has many Mexicans fleeing to the US because they no longer can support themselves there or because the Mexican drug cartels have made it unsafe to stay in Mexico. Which is one of the major reasons we now have so many former citizens of Mexico now living here. American agricultural products can be sold in Mexico for a price lower than what Mexican farmers can match. Our “War on Drugs” that created the drug cartels is another reason so many have fled Mexico to come here.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    You say:

    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 favor forced indoctrination into liberal ideas.

    Why, yes. If you could show me with absolute certainty that absent these steps there was a 99.99% chance of another Hitler, than of course I would endorse them, or indeed almost anything else. BTW, I would also torture a completely innocent person to death if it would save the lives of a billion innocent person. I guess this makes me a BAD man.

    But, open borders is not like that. We know, based on the best available data, that there are large Muslim countries were a MAJORITY of the population believes that apostates should be killed, that women must be subservient to men, and other horribly illiberal things. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/. We also know, based on actual experience, that large scale (but less than would occur under open borders) Muslim migration to Europe has made it dangerous for ordinary citizens to walk in public in many major cities if they are identifiable as Jewish. And, it has palpably chilled free expression as it relates to Islam. It is not crazy to think that open borders would make the situation much worse.

    So, yes, moral rights are not absolute, but this commonplace observation does not take you where you want to go.

    • Just to clarify your claim, you are saying that if a majority of Muslims voice support for the concept of “Sharia law” then that is what you mean when you say they believe “apostates should be killed, that women must be subservient to men, and other horribly illiberal things” ?

      If so, you are wrong.

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2013/12/sharia-constitutional-1-fiqh.html

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        No, the Pew Foundation 2013 face-to-face survey of 38,000 global Muslims asked specifically if converts from Islam should be killed. See Chapter 1 of the link I provided. I suggest you carefully read the Pew data before dismissing my concerns.

        • Okay, I read it. After accounting for the margin of error reported in the appendix, it appears that what you say is true of only 5 nations: Afghanistan (n=1,509), Egypt (n=1,798), Jordan (n=966), Pakistan (n=1,450), and Palestine (n=944). In Jordan and Palestine, it is only barely a majority. To keep things in perspective, you are actually talking about approx. 4,400 survey respondents.

          I did not see where Pew listed what the education level of the respondents was. Indeed, I can’t seem to locate whether this information was even collected. However, it is a well-known fact that education eradicates this belief.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Allowing only the educated in does not qualify as “open borders.” Second, most of the home-grown Muslim terrorists in the US were well educated, so this claim is just a hope without any hard data to support it. Third, it takes only a small number of people willing to die in order to stop you from mocking their religion to chill free speech. If there were just a thousand people here willing to kill you for mocking Muhammad, even if it meant spending the rest of their life in prison, who would be brave enough to do it.

            Also, the “kill apostates” response is just the tip of the iceberg, there are other scary responses to should sharia govern non-Muslims, the role of women, the political influence of religious leaders, etc.

          • You are all over the place. When we look at the Pew data to which you refer, the facts reveal that there is less cause for alarm than your initial comments suggested (what with your CAPITAL WORDS and all). That was the comment to which I was responding.

            Thankfully, you supplied a link and the data is there for level-headed people to analyze with an open mind.

            The notion that education eradicates religious extremism is a bit more than a hope without hard data to support it. Unfortunately, the Pew survey does not break Muslim beliefs down by income and education level. it would have been easy to include that information. I am aware of several studies attesting to this in at least one Muslim-majority country, but unfortunately for the BHL comments section, they are not online in any place that I know how to get ahold of them. I will not expect you to take my word for it.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well pardon me for thinking it rather shocking that a majority of Pakistanis, Egyptians, etc, believe in 2016 that their fellow Muslims should be killed for converting, and emphasizing this in my first comment. As for the rest, call me a bigot if you like, but I really doubt that most Pakistani tribesmen are well educated or will ever become well educated if we admit them here, as demanded by advocates of open borders.

          • I didn’t call you a bigot, I questioned some of your empirical claims.

            Do you suppose that a majority of Pakistani tribesmen would ever immigrate to the United States if we adopted an open borders policy with Pakistan? If so, what is your thinking here? Do you think they would do this mostly to come over here and kill apostates?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Please refer to my earlier comment about numbers and rights. And, no, they would come here for economic opportunity, but would bring their illiberal beliefs with them.

            PS: I didn’t think you accused me of anything, but I suspect that many people reflexively associate skepticism of open borders with this flaw.

          • Sean II

            A simple point, and key one, that nevertheless eludes many keen minds.

            Billions of people around the world have a conflicted relationship with Western civilization. They want the stuff very much. But they don’t understand how the stuff is linked to the wider values of that civlization.

            This is where the problem comes in, because when you try to tell the Pakistani tribesman “No, dude, it’s because we allow blasphemy that we are able to have Apple”…or when you have to tell the West African “it’s because we reject witchcraft that we are able to treat HIV with nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors”, they think that’s crazy talk.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Good point. The Enlightenment not only liberated the mind, it paved the way for prosperity in those countries that led it.

          • Sean II

            I quite agree. The vigor of China’s economy and society is much exaggerated, and the extent to which its still repressive, anemic, bureaucratic, etc. much undersold.

            But China does hold one crucial advantage, which in 100 years or so may yet put the country in undisputed charge of planet earth: immunity to white guilt.

            As this thread indicates, there are many in the West who are explicitly willing to risk everything for the sake of not seeming racist.

            Just look how hard it is to discuss even a simple and obvious thing like …I dunno, that fact that in a heads up match Asian Buddhists make much better neighbors than Muslim Arabs.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Point taken. They may catch up because we may put the car in reverse and hit the gas.

          • Lacunaria

            It is interesting if education eradicates belief in violence and harsh penalties for insulting Islam or Muhammad or the Quran, given that Islamic terrorists are disproportionately well educated. I wonder if illiberalism in higher education plays a role.

          • Sean II

            And never forget: as far as we know, education doesn’t do ANYTHING.

            It’s signaling through and through, which means dreams of changing minds through education – in any direction, good or bad – are probably doomed.

  • Jon Murphy

    This is why Jason Brennan is one of my favorite authors.

  • Pingback: On Closed Borders Arguments | DAILY ADAMS()

  • Sean II

    This is an argument of the form “if you are willing to restrict private ownership of nuclear weapons, you must also be willing to restrict private ownership of AK-47s, for after all AKs have killed far more people than nuclear weapons.”

    The argument poses a challenege only to people who think they must reduce everything to an “axiom”. Idiots do that, so I guess the argument works well enough against Non-Aggression purists.

    It just doesn’t work against anyone else.

    • Sean II

      ETA – in case anyone missed the analogy;

      I’m against private ownership of nuclear weapons because they have the potential to make entire cities disappear in a blink.

      I’m against unlimited mass migration because, as a matter of history (and ever more a matter of paleo-history), we know mass migration is one of the few things that can make an entire civilization disappear, and quickly.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Dude, we have to destroy this civilization to save it.

        • Sean II

          Themistocles: “Fellow Athenians! We’ve built one of the few societies worth defending, ever. And yet everyone hates us. I realize that’s supposed to be just blowback from our Asia Minor policy and all, though that doesn’t explain why everyone hates our good policies most of all, but whatever the reason, maybe we should have – and bear with me now – a couple of “long walls”. I’m talking insurance policy here. You know, just in case the place starts getting a bit too – gosh, how to put this – a bit too Spartan, a bit too Persian, etc.”

          Chorus: “No way, dude. An Athens without walls is no better than Sparta or Persia.”

          Themistocles: “Yeah, gotta call bullshit there. An Athens that exists only within its walls is still better than no Athens at all.”

          • stevenjohnson2

            Athens did not accept immigrants. Foreigners who resided in Athens were called metics. They had a few civil rights, such as the right to prosecute in the courts, but, despite paying taxes, were legally lower in status (liable to judicial torture, for instance.) Any naturalization was an individual gift from the city, which was apparently as rare as any libertarian could wish.

            The long walls were to protect access to the port of Piraeus,ensuring the city could not be closed off from access to food by a land power like Sparta. It had nothing to do with closing the borders as such.

            Last and least, Sparta was famed for not having any walls at all, long or short, other than the shields of its hoplites.

            Athens became hated for its seizure of tribute, i.e., taxation, which every libertarian worth their salt hates with the burning hate of a thousand suns.

            But this was post was wonderfully diagnostic!

          • Sean II

            You are such an idiot.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Under “pedant” in dictionary…

        • King Goat

          That’s funny Mark, when I read your posts I always think of the line of ‘we have to limit our freedoms to protect them!’

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Funny, when I read your comments I note the absence of intelligent content!

          • King Goat

            I can’t match your tribalism, if that’s what you mean!

          • Ethan Trice

            That’s not the quote. The quote is “those who sacrifice ESSENTIAL liberty for TEMPORARY security deserve neither.” By sheer merit of living in a nation state, you give up certain liberties. Franklin loved Locke and was asserting that we shouldn’t be overzealous in giving up rights. Given that the US until 1965 had tight immigration laws and max quotas from different countries (including an outright ban against English immigrants for quite some time, due to fear of English sending soldiers/spies to attack the US), I think it’s safe to say that closing borders doesn’t count as sacrificing essential liberty.

      • John Halstead

        1. I think the point is about the nature and scale of the thing done in defence of liberal culture, political culture etc. Immigration control involves using coercion and force to significantly harm people by preventing them from engaging in voluntary transactions. if we think that preserving liberal culture is important enough to do something as bad as that, then we must think it important enough to do lots of bad things, such as forcibly evict people from the country, preventing them from moving within their own country; or requiring them to watch certain TV programmes or read certain books.

        2. I don’t think you know the empirical facts about immigration. Open borders are largely a 20th century invention. In spite of this, immigration-led societal collapse was rare before the 20th century. One anecdote – the Hungarian revolution of 1956: Austria, still broken from the second world war, took in 2% of its population in refugees, and emerged even stronger as a result

        • Sean II

          Migration led societal collapse is the leading cause of societal collapse since the dawn of society.

          Exactly how do you think the Indo-European family spread? It wasn’t by going door to door with cookies.

          I can’t take credit for this line, but whoever said “we shouldn’t call them dead languages, we should call them murdered tongues” was right on.

        • King Goat

          “immigration-led societal collapse was rare before the 20th century”

          It’s amazing, isn’t it, how closely the comments of people like Sean, Mark, etc., track the language common a hundred years ago about the ‘Papist’ Irish and Italians, whose culture’s clearly were incompatible with liberal values and whose immigration would lead to the collapse of liberal institutions in the U.S.?

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    As a matter of psychology, I find it interesting that Muslim immigration seems to be the “love that dare not speak its name.” Prominent libertarian proponents of open borders seem determined not even to mention possible costs associated with this particular group. So, Huemer in his influential “Is There a Right to Immigrate” addresses the argument about changes to the dominant culture by asking us to imagine that a bunch of Buddhists move into your neighborhood, changing its character from Christian to Buddhist. No problem, right, because as far as I know, this religion has no well-documented history of murdering people for mocking the Buddha.

    Bryan Caplin, in his “Why Should We Restrict Immigration?” acknowledges the possibility of “political externalities,” but only in terms of a leftward drift, and dismisses the problem because immigrants need not be allowed to vote. Nothing about people getting murdered for mocking Muhammad. Finally, to the best of my recollection, I don’t believe Jason has said anything about this in his many posts on the subject. It’s just a little curious, is it not? Kind of like they are afraid of this subject.

    • TheJeebus

      Buddhists are murdering Muslims in Burma. Sure, not for mocking Buddha, but I don’t really think that’s a necessary distinction.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        All such violence is appalling, but it seems to flow both ways: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-18395788. And, I don’t think that in general, Buddhists pose as great a threat to pluralism, tolerance, and other liberal values as do Muslims. But, if I am wrong, and an open door to immigration from all Buddhist-majority countries threatened the rule of law here, I would also regulate it.

    • Sean II

      I’m a bit naive, so I really did think we’d see some moderation among the border openers after such an embarrassing two year run of bad luck in Europe – Hebdo, Paris, Cologne, continued radicalization and failed assimilation in most of the big cities, etc.

      But nope, they’re undeterred. This is turning into one of those ideas where the more the evidence mounts against it, the greater becomes the signaling value of stubbornly carrying on.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Yep.

      • Jameson Graber

        The fact that you see any of those things as evidence against open borders is a textbook example of confirmation bias.

        Why are you even a libertarian? You think like any run of the mill conservative.

        • Hollis Butts

          Yes, Sean is deliberately ignoring the many excellent effects on Europe resulting from the recent immigration there.

          • Sean II

            Ah, yes…when I think of Europe in 2015, what else is their to notice but a booming economy, a flourishing culture, and a golden age of political stability?

          • Hollis Butts

            I’m not sure whether you realized that I was being sarcastic.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well played.

          • Sean II

            Of course I did, I was just riffin’ off yo’ riff. Or whatever that thing is called which forms the basis of a riff, when one guy starts a line and some other guy pickes up his cue.

            Cue! That’s the word!

        • Sean II

          Yeah, maybe you’re right. The fact that a bunch of dudes from one particular ethnic and religious group committed some crimes characteristic of that group (and in some cases just blatantly in the name of that group’s values), in no way bears on the question “should we allow an unlimited number of dudes from that group into our house?”

          How could anyone think such a crazy thing?

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Actually, all ideas that come with an emotional/psychological attachment (e.g. all the important ones) are like that. Which is why–if you will recall our long-ago discussion on this subject–I think it is futile to actually try and persuade people at all. Unless they already share with you a set of basic moral/political beliefs, and you can rely on consistency arguments.

        • Sean II

          I agree, though more and more lately for a different reason. I now suspect much attempted suasion is dead on arrival because people have strong hereditary biases for/against certain ideas. (For example, I am especially convinced there is something called Anti-Market Mind, which renders its victims incapable of grasping things like invisible hands arguments, the value added by middlemen, the role and behavior of prices, etc.)

          But you are right to recall a time when I did not believe this, I think covering at least my first year of commenting here.

          Much has changed since then. Now I look at those Cato type message and movement libertarians, and I see only wasted effort.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            By “hereditary” do you mean genetic or inherited from parents by means of education/indoctrination?

          • Sean II

            Genetic.

            The evidence is in: education is signaling, parental indoctrination is a coin flip (raise two sons to be Rabbis, and you end up with one Rabbi, and one kid who tries his best to be the opposite of a Rabbi in every conceivable way).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You know, my feeling is that nature does dominate nurture in most things, but I’m going to wait until our microbiologist friends have located the genes that code for “egalitarian fetish,” “capitalism is just for the rich syndrome,” and the “we just haven’t found the right people to implement socialism fantasy” before I sign on to your theory.

          • Sean II

            Okay, but bear in mind: that’s a little like someone in 1750 saying “I won’t believe smallpox is an infectious disease until you can pinpoint the pathogen.”

            See what I’m saying? We don’t come close to having the “gene for” any number of things which we know to be heritable. Intelligence, to name the most important.

            Consider: no one knows the “gene for” cuteness in dogs, but damn if we haven’t been able to select for it over 10,000 years. Admitting something is heritable is not only the first step, often it’s the only step that matters.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I am keeping an open mind. πŸ™‚

          • Sean II

            Well, that alone puts you ahead of most everyone.

          • Lacunaria

            Do you really mean that they are incapable of understanding those dynamics, or is it that they seem to have an innate moral mistrust of them and their entailments?

            The latter strikes me as more like a “bias”. If the former, then it seems easy enough to test if we could find some dedicated participants who you would classify as AMMs. Or perhaps they are better classified by their lack of dedication and unwillingness to learn?

            Would you extend AMM even to liberal economists who retain an anti-market bias?

          • Sean II

            I think there are two groups that present with the phenotype I’m calling anti-market mind: the cant’s and the won’ts

            Many really are incapable of grasping certain key concepts. My guess is that an IQ of 90 forms a hard floor for understanding invisible hand and price equilibrium, etc. Folks below this line are the cant’s.

            But it’s the wont’s who, as you suggest, suffer from a bias in the strict sense. They greedily devour complex and counter-intuitive concepts in other fields, but when you try to explain, say, how money lenders help people without – gasp! – intending to help them, they suddenly revert to the cognitive limits of a Tenth Century German peasant. It’s not just that they dislike your conclusion, it’s that they crime-stopped the whole argument before even understanding it.

            On the last point: I think Krugman and his ilk are just straight pandering. As in, they know that breaking all the windows is not really a sound general principle, but if that’s what it takes to trick those race-car loving wide-loads into giving power to the right people, by god they’ll say it. Or…they know that demand curves slope down, but they’ll pretend otherwise because if that’s what it takes to get the minimum wage raised. And so on.

    • King Goat

      Mark, I’ve read quite a few articles about Orthodox Jews in Israel carrying on in ‘illiberal’ ways. On the one end, there’s the objecting to women sitting near them on buses and planes, for example, on the other there’s violence against gays or Arabs by orthodox offenders. Should we prohibit immigration of people in this group?

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        I sincerely doubt that if the Pew Foundation did a representative survey of 38,000 Orthodox Jews the results would be nearly as scary as the results of their survey of global Muslims. But the question you pose is entirely an empirical one, and thus you are entitled to your opinion on it, however stupid that is likely to be.

        • King Goat

          No, no,Mark, as you do, let’s deal with news stories to build generalities upon which to base principles.

          Do you doubt I can’t supply stories of ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews 1. pushing to get women tossed off buses and planes; 2. killing people who believe different (including just, well, gays for example) including major political figures; 3. supressing free political and otherwise speech? Please say no so I can show you wrong!

          So, other than base tribalism, what’s the difference?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Gosh, you really are stuck on stupid. Of course there are Jews who are horrible, illiberal people. But, as should be obvious, what is important for purposes of this discussion of open borders are the traits of the “typical” person from a particular country. I have no problem at all with open borders with Canada, because this would have no impact on the rule of law here. In fact, it might even improve things. Not so with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. Now, I think I’ve wasted enough time with you, so just blow away, okay?

          • King Goat

            You don’t think that illiberal anti-gay and anti-women attitudes are quite general to Orthodox Israeli households in the way that you find the same for Muslims? You really need to read more about the news in Israel. And when you do one wonders if you’ll start calling for barring their immigration…

          • Hollis Butts

            Doesn’t it come down to numbers? How many illiberal Orthodox Jews are there? How many Muslims? And, more importantly, how many Orthodox Jews wish to do harm to the US?

          • Sean II

            A good thought experiment here is: what would it take to make you, personally, go into hiding.

            Case 1: “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa on you.”

            Case 2: “The Lubavitcher Rebbe is calling for your head.”

            The first is an excellent reason to get plastic surgery.

            The second is a comedy sketch waiting to be written.

            That’s the difference.

          • Hollis Butts

            The Rebbe –mathematician, linguist, engineer, theologian — I wouldn’t underestimate him.

          • Sean II

            More powerful dead than most men alive.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I have read enough of the Rebbe’s religious writings to say with confidence that he was a genius; fully the equal of any contemporary philosopher if his interests had led in that direction. In some alternative universe somewhere I would give anything to have him and Robert Nozick (my greatest intellectual influence) over for diner (strictly kosher, of course), and throw a few choice topics out for discussion, e.g. does God exist? the nature of good and evil? free will? can morality exist without God? I would keep my mouth shut. That would be rather stimulating I think.

          • Sean II

            Really? I had no idea he was such an interesting character, nor such an intellectual heavyweight. I was just using his name as a personification of Jewish benevolence in the world, even at the sectarian margin.

            But I know enough about you to recognize what high praise is contained in that Nozick comparison!

            Fascinating thing to discover. Any recommended readings?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Yes, although you might have to “hold your nose” in a sense. I am not Orthodox, but I belong to a synagogue headed by a Chabad Rabbi. During the weekly Shabbos Torah readings, the congregation follows along in a Chumash (English/Hebrew translation of the Torah in book form, with commentaries on each portion). Rashi is universally acknowledged as the chief and most authoritative commentator on what the text means in the “simple” sense, i.e. not invoking the metaphorical, esoteric, or mystical concepts which permeate Jewish thought.

            The Chumash I usually use is based on the Rebbe’s writings. In these, he explains and synthesizes all of the competing and often inconsistent considerations that led Rashi to adopt certain interpretations and reject others. It is high-level philosophy by another name. You need not have any religious inclination to appreciate this impressive intellectual achievement.

            There are also a collection of video tapes made of the Rebbe’s pubic talks given to his followers on theological and practical subjects over the decades. They are available for viewing I believe through the Chabad website. They are in Yiddish with English subtitles. He speaks totally extemporaneously, without any notes or other aides. I have seen dozens of them, and they are amazing.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            see comment to Sean II.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            That is a very sensible question. There are very roughly about 1.4 million Orthodox in the world, about half of whom already live here. In contrast, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and only about 5 million live here. And, I would submit, the formerly are massively less likely to kill an American because he is of a different faith, mocked their prophet, or is somehow held responsible for US foreign policy. Nevertheless, I can assure you that Goat perceives the Orthodox to represent a far greater threat.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      Permit me to answer my own question. “Free movement” is a beautiful-sounding principle. Moreover, it has the virtue of signaling to other philosophers and the public that libertarians aren’t hard-heated Randians, but care about the global poor in a way egalitarians can only dream of. Discussing the specifics of Muslim immigration introduces messy trade-offs

      According to the Pew Foundation, there are 1.6 billion global Muslims. If only 1% move here, we suddenly have 16 million new residents. If only 1% of those believe it their duty to kill anyone who insults Islam, we have a new crop of 16,000 potential murderers ready to strike. You would have to be pretty brave to mock Muhammad now, right. I dont personally find this prospect very appealing.

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  • I must be in my stupid time of the day. Did you really mean to imply that someone who feels that border closure must also embrace censorship, banning of religion, or instituting population controls? Each point and counter point listed is a separate and distinct issue worthy of its’ own discussion without attempts to shame the holder of any opinion.

  • Hollis Butts

    I think Dr.Brennan does not address the argument from aspirin. Undoubtedly aspirin does good. But that is not an argument for taking the whole bottle. Open borders is swallowing the whole bottle. Or, consider this thought: We currently do have open borders, but restrict the rate of inflow. It’s the difference between a wave and a tsunami.

  • stevenjohnson2

    “When we close borders, we in the first instance forbid people from making willing, mutually-beneficial trades with one another.”

    This seems to invert cause and effect. Markets do not create societies and governments, societies and government create markets. This is certainly true historically. And I know of no serious effort at demonstrating it’s not true causally.

    If the existence of borders is the consequence of the existence of separate societies and governments, then the politics and economics and ethics of borders do not automatically translate into norms for the society and government. The way your family operates is not a consequence or cause of how your family deals with other families in the neighborhood.

    That said, it seems to me the case for or against open borders depends very much on empirical claims. Most of the hostility to immigrants appears to be deeply racist (in the cultural sense of race, not necessarily Confederate/Nazi blood [genetic] sense.) Maybe opposition to immigrants in the name of higher wages for domestic labor may be an exception. But this opposition assumes the economy isn’t capable of full employment, high wages and high growth. Simultaneously it assumes that such an insufficient economic system is not to be criticized, much less reformed. As such, it seems to be a diversion from real issues for domestic labor and should be rejected.

    • Hollis Butts

      Opposition to immigration and concern about open borders are different subjects. A person can be pro-immigration yet anti open borders. “Closed borders” is an unfortunate term and invokes a vision of North Korea and its literally closed border, when what we are actually talking about is moderating the influx of immigrants, however poorly that function is performed by government.

      Your comment “Most of the hostility to immigrants appears to be deeply racist (in the cultural sense of race…” is interesting. Isn’t it perhaps reasonable to be more resistant to immigration from deeply illiberal and militant cultures than from less illiberal cultures? “Racist” seems unsuited for such a meaning. For example, a flood of Thais would probably be less resisted than a flood of Saudis. How racist is that?

      • stevenjohnson2

        The concern for the society and government breakdown from overloading can be purely physical/economic/ecological: The fear is that there will just be too many people for the society and government to keep functioning properly. It seems to me that this fear’s rationality depends very much on the numbers involved. And it doesn’t seem to me that the numbers justify the fear and fury at the prospect of everybody starving because of too many people. (And, it still seems odd that one should uphold a system so little able to grow in response to challenges and opportunities.)

        The other concern is about the inability of the domestic culture to absorb newcomers. Assuming that one could identify meaningful degrees of backwardness in culture, a big assumption, how can one determine that some minorities are less assimilable? Except by some sort of unsavory prejudgment? Perhaps there is some sort of grossly pessimistic assumption that US society has more or less dead ended and the lower orders are condemned to struggling over the scraps. If this is true, then limiting the number of lowers is ultimately more humane. (And it still seems very odd to defend such a decadent system.)

        • Hollis Butts

          The State Department says that there are an estimated 4.4 million people waiting for legal status. This lot would enter overnight if allowed, to be shortly followed by many, many more. How bad would America have to become before the average North African or Brazilian slum dweller concluded that there was more opportunity at home than in the US?
          Regarding “The other concern is about the inability of the domestic culture to absorb newcomers.” I think this is backwards. The concern is the ability and willingness of the immigrants to absorb the new and different culture surrounding them. Regarding “how can one determine that some minorities are less assimilable,” well, does Europe offer no examples to learn from?

          • stevenjohnson2

            “How bad would America have to become before the average North African or Brazilian slum dweller concluded that there was more opportunity at home than in the US?”

            Judging from the examples of Ireland and Puerto Rico, the vicissitudes of the business cycle influence immigration very strongly, while remittances and relief of pressures at home improve the employment situation at home. Actually, every indication is that open borders that allow back and forth makes achieving a balance easier. As for the implication that North Africans or Brazilian slum dwellers would be any more likely to go to the USA than a US national to move for better opportunities seems to me to be wholly unjustified. Why does anyone still stay in West Virginia? The same kinds of reasons will keep most North Africans and Brazilians at home.

            “Or should women’s clinics offer female circumcision as well as abortions?”

            If clinics and hospitals offer male circumcision, or breast implants for teen age girls, it’s not clear how a libertarian can be so selectively exercised about this. A policy of encouraging female circumcision that safely takes only a scrap of skin seems like a reform at this point.

            “Regarding “how can one determine that some minorities are less assimilable,” well, does Europe offer no examples to learn from?”

            Yes, minorities Europe has found unassimilable on a long term basis are Jews and Roma. You really don’t want to go there.

          • Hollis Butts

            “The same kinds of reasons will keep most North Africans and Brazilians at home.” I agree. The world will not be denuded as everyone tries to squeeze into the US and Europe. But considering all the takers willing to pay traffickers good money for the opportunity to drown in the Mediterranean, what percentage would be willing to move if it were risk-less to do so? A lot, I’m guessing. And then add on the rest of the world. It won’t be Switzerland supplying immigrants but countries with beliefs and institutions that have led to, how should I put it, — disappointing results.

            “If clinics and hospitals offer male circumcision, or breast implants for teen age girls, it’s not clear how a libertarian can be so selectively exercised about this.” A bit of misunderstanding here. I wasn’t condemning sanitary circumcision if chosen. In reality, it will be the more progressive sectors that would foam at the mouth at the prospect of truly accommodating such foreign customs and attitudes. Within reason, it is the immigrants job to adjust to the society accepting him. Also, the usual North African procedure of female circumcision involves removing the clitoris and anything flapping around– for the sake of hygiene and aesthetics. If someone chooses it, fine with me. If family chooses it for a child, I am conflicted and would hope to have it postponed.

            “Yes, minorities Europe has found unassimilable on a long term basis are Jews and Roma. You really don’t want to go there.” But I do want to go there. Basically, Jews and Roma wish to be just let alone to live as they wish. No
            problem with that. And bigots who will not let them be, should of
            course be condemned and constrained. But Jews and Roma are not threatening physical harm to their perceived critics, or demanding punishment for critical speech or demanding societal change to accommodate their beliefs nor do they see the norms and beliefs of the general population as an actionable affront. Yes, I know that in some countries it is illegal to deny the holocaust etc. and I think this is also wrong.

          • stevenjohnson2

            Your first response blends a refugee problem (largely created by the actions of US allies) with the question of immigration. Confusing issues contributes nothing honest to any discussion.

            But…”It won’t be Switzerland supplying immigrants but countries with beliefs and institutions that have led to, how should I put it, — disappointing results.” Those institutions aren’t immigrating. Without divine powers to see inside souls it’s hard to know how their beliefs truly differ and whether that will really make any difference. All we really have her is a distaste for the mere physical presence of people you don’t like.

            Your second response admits in your mind your were baiting “progressives.” In personal life, I find this kind of thing symptomatic of racism.

            Your third response, well, you went there. First, it is not a fact that Muslims are doing the things you claim. There are some Muslim political organizations. Pretending these are the same thing as a whole category of people is absurd hate mongering.

            Second, in the past antisemites most certainly made exactly the same kinds of case for the harmfulness of the unassimilable Jewish or Roma minority as you make today. With, I may add, just as much sense and honesty as you display today. So far as I know, for instance, Roma didn’t just want to be left alone but wanted to roam about ignoring many local laws on all sorts of things, such as sales taxes on handicrafts.

            Jason Brennan tried in the OP (and failed in my opinion) to find some sort of high flown principle to avoid criticizing the racism that motivates so much of the fury about immigration. Looking at the commentary here, I can only conclude racism is a substantive part of libertarianism.

          • Lacunaria

            Second, in the past antisemites most certainly made exactly the same kinds of case for the harmfulness of the unassimilable Jewish or Roma minority as you make today.

            What was the evidence against Jews that corresponds to Muslims murdering people who draw Muhammad, 12% of American Muslims favoring capital punishment for blaspheming Islam, and 29% asserting that violence is justified against those who insult Muhammad or the Quran?

            So far as I know, for instance, Roma didn’t just want to be left alone but wanted to roam about ignoring many local laws on all sorts of things, such as sales taxes on handicrafts.

            Sales tax? And you think that is “exactly the kind of case for harmfulness” that is being made against Muslims?

            Granted, most countries probably don’t want immigration of people who refuse to pay taxes, but that neither bolsters your claims of racism nor your claim of equivalence.

          • stevenjohnson2

            Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy (and before that, killing children for matzoh.)
            Gypsies kidnapping children.

            Your fatuous belief your evidence is any better than the theirs would be hilarious were it not for the vast quantities of blood being spilled with the approval of crazed bigots. That’s religiously motivated violence, which should carry a lot more weight than opinion polls. And support for the state of Israel because God gave the Jews the Holy Land is too. Suddenly applying a religious standard is an absurdity motivated by bigotry.

          • Lacunaria

            You are equating facts and fiction and creating strawmen left and right.

            I cited specific actions and destructive beliefs which should be condemned regardless of the ideology they are associated with. You are way off base.

          • Hollis Butts

            OK, I’ll bite.

            “Your first response blends a refugee problem (largely created by the actions of US allies) with the question of immigration. Confusing issues contributes nothing honest to any discussion.”

            I thought we were mostly discussing the merits of open borders vs. moderated immigration and with the recent refugee crisis being a useful preview of what the sudden movement of large masses of (mostly illiberal) people into Europe, and by extension, America, would look like. In the case of open borders, waves of refugees from whatever crisis of the moment would be added on top of anyone in the world wanting to go to Europe and/or America. I know of no libertarian against generous amounts of immigration. Not much to discuss there. The current haggling is over whether the quantity and origin of immigrants/refugees matters.

            But…”It won’t be Switzerland supplying immigrants but countries with beliefs and institutions that have led to, how should I put it, — disappointing results.” Those institutions aren’t immigrating. Without divine powers to see inside souls it’s hard to know how their beliefs truly differ and whether that will really make any difference. All we really have her is a distaste for th e mere physical presence of people you don’t like.”

            Do I understand you correctly: I don’t have the divine power to see inside souls to know their beliefs, however you do have the power to see inside souls and see my distaste for the mere physical presence of people I don’t like –rather than, say, questioning the strange certainty of some people that the arrival of any number of people carrying any culture and any set of values can have no have negative consequences whatsoever on a liberal-ish society?

            “Your second response admits in your mind your were baiting “progressives.” In personal life, I find this kind of thing symptomatic of racism.”

            Baiting progressives is symptomatic of racism? That comment made my day. Unfortunately, I was not baiting progressives in my female circumcision example. I had come across extreme condemnation of the practise on left/progressive sites and threads. It was condemned as a violent affront to womanhood,– not that conservatives wouldn’t be eager to ban the practise, but the subject seems to not to get them nearly as excited.

            “Your third response, well, you went there. First, it is not a fact that Muslims are doing the things you claim. There are some Muslim political organizations. Pretending these are the same thing as a whole category of people is absurd hate mongering.”

            On Muslims, I was talking of those that do harm, not those who don’t. I was talking of those that threaten physical harm to their perceived critics, those demanding punishment for critical speech, those demanding societal change to accommodate their beliefs and those who see the norms and beliefs of the general non-Muslim population as an actionable affront. I simply do not see these problems being nearly so prevalent with other groups. Do you? It was ridiculous to oppose 10 thousand Syrian refugees to the US. But would inviting all of North Africa be OK too?

            “Jason Brennan tried in the OP (and failed in my opinion) to find some sort of high flown principle to avoid criticizing the racism that motivates so much of the fury about immigration. Looking at the commentary here, I can only conclude racism is a substantive part of liberta rianism.”

            Again, the debate among libertarians on this thread is not over the virtues of immigration but over possible consequences of open borders. And to suspect that the influx of 10 million Japanese just might go better than with 10 million Pakistanis just doesn’t look very racist to me.

  • John Lock

    Immigration is a Constitutional power of the Federal government – Article I section 8 powers.

    Now let us add this to the discussion how many high tech Silicon Valley jobs are at companies founded or co-founded by H – 1B visa holders? Intel, Qualcomm, Litton, facebook, and many more. Their efforts created millions and millions of jobs.

    • Sean II

      H1B is a highly selective program. As in, it selects with high accuracy only people at the high end of certain highly desirable traits. Which is why I’m highly in favor of it.

      But unfortunately for you, that means H1B has little (not quite nothing, but very little) to teach us about OPEN borders, which is by definition an indiscriminate policy.

      Except perhaps this: academics who only know two types of immigrant – H1B profs and nannies – are uniquely prone to bias on the subject of immigration.

  • Swami Cat

    A dialogue would be more productive than this type of slippery slope argument. Jason, if you want to make some progress on the topic, just respond to Sean II. I think he represents the rational middle ground on the discussion, and has convincingly countered your stated objections.

    On a related note, here is a paper highlighting the benefits of immigration, while still acknowledging that there may be some unknown level of immigration which overwhelms the system, but that developed nations are probably nowhere near it yet:

    http://ftp.iza.org/dp9730.pdf

    • Sean II

      I can’t thank you enough for being the first person ever to notice that I’m a moderate on this issue.

    • Hollis Butts

      Regarding “some unknown level of immigration which overwhelms the system, but that developed nations are probably nowhere near it yet:” isn’t there an element of the “white man’s burden” here? Has even the most pro free border fan ever stated that the current immigration will make Germany or Sweden happier places? Isn’t it more a demand to grit your teeth and do your duty as rich white folk?

      • Sean II

        Progressive opinion 1946: “We must liberate Arabs and Africans from the tyranny of European rule.”

        Progressive opinion 2016: “We must liberate Arabs and Africans from the tyranny of Arab and African rule, by letting them all move to Europe.”

        Progressive opinion 2026: “We must not expect Arabs and Africans to live under the tyranny of European rule, just because they live in Europe.”

        Progressive opinion 2046: “Wait, why are we all being herded into this soccer stadium at midnight?”

  • Lacunaria

    What’s odd is that none of Brennan’s necessary entailments are logical to me, so there must be a some axiomatic misunderstandings. Here are some issues that I think must be addressed to help reach a common understanding:

    (1) Define a community, a city, and a state. Do these involve any sort of agreements among the members?

    (2) Is mutual defense a valid moral reason to have borders and control them?

    (3) Are exclusive clubs or Amish communities immoral?

    But we can still ask him, “Would you in principle be willing to do those things, if the facts were different? If, e.g., allowing people to convert to Islam turned out to be just as dangerous as you think allowing immigrants from Afghanistan, would you favor banning Islam, in order to maintain a liberal culture committed to the rule of law?” We doubt he’d say yes.

    First, I would argue that a community has the right to include or exclude people even for irrational reasons, just as a business should have that right. The free market effects of discrimination apply to both.

    Second, existing agreements within the US must be met, so prohibiting entrance is not equivalent to prohibiting belief.

    Moreover, if the conversion of citizens to Islam brought with it significant violence and reduction of liberty, then you would not only see voluntary segregation, but also potentially new agreements regarding internal borders, including private communities.

    • Theresa Klein

      (1) Define a community, a city, and a state. Do these involve any sort of agreements among the members?

      If the answer is yes, doesn’t that implicitly endorse the concept of a social contract? And if so, why can’t that social contract do all sorts of other things that you would consider rights violations? Why limit it to just restricting immigration?

      • Swami Cat

        Theresa,

        My two cents is that a group should be allowed to form a voluntary social contract. It is unlikely anyone would join a group offering eugenics, limitations on childbirth, censorship, limitations on non destructive movement and so on. If they did join such a group, my guess is they would regret it long term, especially when benchmarking themselves to groups not doing such stupid things. As such, people will flock to better groups with better rules according to the diverse values and goals of the individuals concerned.

        But the group should still have the ability to determine who else gets to join, or control the rate of new membership to maintain order.

        I find Jason’s argument to be absolutely unconvincing. There is a huge difference between agreed upon costs and benefits between members and unlimited entry.

        And yes, I am extremely pro-immigration. I think it is a mutually beneficial interaction.

      • Lacunaria

        Not all provisions of a social contract are morally valid, but mutual defense is generally a valid one. I also admit to degrees of consent and legitimacy.

        For example, if the roles of government were realistically broken up into individual contracts, would you agree to a contract for mutual defense?

        If so, then that lends legitimacy to that role of government, and it strikes me as hypocritical to exclude such agreements from moral consideration, as if there were no history of violence and communities don’t address such issues.

        To be clear, I am assuming that this is the basic moral principle:

        You have the right to import whomever you want as long as it does not affect your neighbors.

        That condition morally authorizes the community to enforce at least some restrictions to the extent that immigration affects others. Indeed, violations are what motivate community agreements to pursue justice and mutual protection.

        • Ron H.

          (1) Define a community, a city, and a state. Do these involve any sort of agreements among the members?

          A community is generally formed by a group of people with similar characteristics or interests, often living in the same geographic areas. The smaller the group, and/or the more points of similarity or common interest among them, the more likelihood there is of agreement and unanimous, positive consent, which I believe is necessary for the legitimacy of any set of rules or governing entity. That means the size of a legitimate governing authority is necessarily small.

          Larger entities such as cities and states are less likely to have the unanimous consent of the governed, and therefore less likely to have legitimate authority. Almost invariably as the size of a political entity increases, it becomes a matter of one group imposing its will on others through coercion.

          A nation the size of the US, with 320mm people, can’t possible have unanimous consent of the governed, so whatever government exists must do so without legitimate authority. In other words, there is a limit to the size of the tent under which people will live voluntarily.

          (2) Is mutual defense a valid moral reason to have borders and control them?

          A collective agreement for mutual defense may include any geography over which the group has legitimate authority through property rights.

          I consider a system of private property rights to be the best method ever devised to settle disputes over scarce resources. If you have a better system in mind, please let me know.

          (3) Are exclusive clubs or Amish communities immoral?

          Absolutely not. Any individual or group of individuals may associate – or not associate – with anyone they please, for any reason they choose.

          First, I would argue that a
          community has the right to include or exclude people even for irrational reasons, just as a business should have that right. The free market effects of discrimination apply to both.

          I agree 100%

          Second, existing agreements within the US must be met, so prohibiting entrance is not equivalent to prohibiting belief.

          Not sure what you mean about existing agreements. Many, including Donald Trump, would prohibit entrance based on religious beliefs. Others would deny entrance based on country of origin, cultural identity, training and skill set, or relative financial status.

          For example, if the roles of government were

          realistically broken up into individual contracts, would you agree to a contract for mutual defense?

          A contract with an agency with a monopoly on the provision of that service? One that could take from me by threat of force whatever amount it wanted in payment? One that could decide what level and type of defense service I would receive? A contract that could never be cancelled, with an agency that couldn’t be fired for any reason?

          No, I don’t believe I would.

          I do like the idea of selecting the individual services with separate contracts on an annual basis, though.

          Dept. of Education? decline. Energy? decline. TSA? decline. Interior? decline…

          To be clear, I am assuming that this is the basic moral principle:

          You have the right to import whomever you want as long as it does not affect your neighbors.

          I wouldn’t use the word “affect”. A clear and immediate violation of someone’s rights or a breach of contract would need to be demonstrated, not just vague misgivings about the Mexican immigrant I hired to work on my property.

          That condition morally authorizes the community to enforce at least some restrictions to the extent that immigration affects others. Indeed, violations are what motivate community agreements to pursue justice and
          mutual protection.

          Indeed. Most communities are populated by people who choose to be there *because* of the community standards and conditions and restrictions that apply to individual property rights in that community.

          if I buy property in a particular community I may agree to not subdivide my lot, paint my house purple, hire Mexicans, sell to minorities, or any number of ther conditions. I chose that community because of those restrictions.

          What other members of the community cannot do is add a restriction later to which I don’t agree, and attempt to enforce it against me.

          In addition, consent cannot be implied by my continuing to live in the neighborhood. A high price for withholding consent can’t be imposed on someone who doesn’t agree, which selling and moving would certainly be.

          • Lacunaria

            Sorry for my long delay! I’m still swamped but wanted to get a few thoughts out there. Please let me know if you feel I’ve missed addressing a central point.

            A nation the size of the US, with 320mm people, can’t possible have unanimous consent of the governed, so whatever government exists must do so without legitimate authority. In other words, there is a limit to the size of the tent under which people will live voluntarily.

            Yes, but war and defense greatly favors the large and well prepared. It’s not just a matter of determining how legitimate states are, but rather actually being able to defend against states, which I think will require more compromise at the borders than most an-caps are willing to admit.

            How do you view historical conquering, such as by empires, besides noting that they were illegitimate but lacked any feasible remedy via courts, effective freelance armies, and affordable defense insurance?

            If legitimacy solely depends upon explicit, positive consent, don’t immigrants give that consent by immigrating?

            Is government authority at least legitimate for those who do consent to it?

            “For example, if the roles of government were realistically broken up into individual contracts, would you agree to a contract for mutual defense?”

            A contract with an agency with a monopoly on the provision of that service? One that could take from me by threat of force whatever amount it wanted in payment? One that could decide what level and type of defense service I would receive? A contract that could never be canceled, with an agency that couldn’t be fired for any reason?

            No, I don’t believe I would.

            Not quite that extreme — more like the “CCRs most buyers agree to”. In both cases, the contract is tied to land and can be canceled by emigrating (or vote). In both cases, you would be compromising with your neighbors (in exchange for increased mutual security, for example).

            How are they different?

            I do like the idea of selecting the individual services with separate contracts on an annual basis, though.

            Indeed, and they select you, too, and if a big state is eying conquering you, not only will your premiums go up, they might drop you as soon as they can.

            As nice as a free market is, outsourcing security has its limits because the stakes are so high and localized. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own security. Each community is responsible for its own security.

            Dept. of Education? decline. Energy? decline. TSA? decline. Interior? decline…

            I agree, the more we bundle, the less moral it is, but none of those are pertinent to external security (perhaps partially excepting the TSA).

            What other members of the community cannot do is add a restriction later to which I don’t agree, and attempt to enforce it against me.

            So, you would never agree to contracts which put anything to a vote?

          • Ron H.

            Ahh. Good to hear from you. I was afraid I’d thrown such a huge TL;DR at you that you had given up in disgust. I’m glad that’s not the case.

            Yes, but war and defense greatly favors the large and well prepared. It’s not just a matter of determining how legitimate states are, but rather actually being able to defend against states, which I think will require more compromise at the borders than most an-caps are willing to admit.

            Is it your view, then, that the state is necessary because national defense is so large that private provision of defense isn’t possible? That there’s some lower limit on the size of the state below which common defense isn’t possible? There must be some legitimate level of overall authority wielded by one group of people that can force others against their will when they would prefer to be left alone or to make other choices?

            I used to struggle with this question of what size state is permissible, and I always ran into conflicts between my beliefs in self ownership,private property, self determination, liberty, free markets, etc. etc. and government, which by definition must place limits on these principles. The conflict was finally resolved when I realizing that NO level of government based on non-consent as legitimate.

            We MUST have an easy and relatively painless method of opting out of agreements made by others. I can voluntarily join a bowling league, abide by the rules, pay the required fees, and enjoy all the benefits. I can as easily un-join. I don’t have to move, renounce my citizenship, or pay heavy tax penalties. I just lose the benefits of belonging to the club.

            We can certainly join with others for a common goal, but we cannot legitimately be forced against our will.

            Moving out of the community or the country isn’t an easy opt out, and there is no place except Antarctica where we could avoid authoritative governments. And of course, global agreements exist to deny us residence even there.

            Not quite that extreme…

            What I described is exactly the system under which we live now.

            — more like the “CCRs most buyers agree to”. In both cases, the contract is tied to land and can be canceled by emigrating (or vote). In both cases, you would be compromising with your neighbors (in exchange for increased mutual security, for example).

            How are they different?

            Big difference. I *voluntarily* agreed to CCRs by buying in that neighborhood. My purchase agreement includes my consent to them, and in fact the CCRs might be the reason I made that particular choice.

            I didn’t choose to be born in the US, (although I thank my lucky stars I was) my parents couldn’t commit me to a social contract, and I didn’t agree to one myself. Where’s the consent?

            As nice as a free market is, outsourcing security has its limits because the stakes are so high and localized.

            I am outsourcing national security now. My agent has a monopoly on defense services, can’t be fired, can charge any amount it wants, etc. etc. In fact my current security agent is operating out of control – invading foreign countries willy-nilly, causing some of the hapless survivors of war crimes to come to the US to blow themselves up in retaliation, as they have no hope of making a military response. In the old days the government head of that department was appropriately called “Secretary of War” not “Defense”.

            but none of those are pertinent to external security (perhaps partially excepting the TSA).”

            And the TSA is a perfect example of a Bunch of Bumbling Bureaucratic Bozos doing a job that could be done MUCH better and MUCH cheaper and MUCH more effectively by the airports and airlines themselves.There is no external security being done by the TSA. They don’t check passengers arriving in the US, but those boarding in the US. Any threat they might find some day is already in the US.

            Ultimately, you are responsible for your own security. Each community is responsible for its own security.

            Absolutely right, but that responsibility has been usurped by the state. Where are my choices?

            So, you would never agree to contracts which put anything to a vote?

            I wouldn’t agree to be bound by a vote, no. Others may do so if they wish, but don’t conscript me into the club. The whole thing is about “free choice”.

            Give me choice or give me death.

          • Lacunaria

            Haha, no, it wasn’t TL;DR, I just got swamped. I also thought there was a bunch of overlap and wasn’t sure where to begin.

            Is it your view, then, that the state is necessary because national defense is so large that private provision of defense isn’t possible?

            No, because I don’t think a mutual defense agreement necessitates all of the features of a state that you’ve listed. Would you say that a private community becomes a state if its CCRs address border security, like a gated community? Does it become a state if the CCRs put select issues to a vote?

            In any case, I’m making no assumptions regarding how defense is provided, I’m just asserting that community borders would be agreed to, with constraints sufficient to address historical threats, because absent such agreements we’d eventually be annexed or invaded.

            The conflict was finally resolved when I realizing that NO level of government based on non-consent as legitimate.

            I agree with you as a matter of degree, but the question is, how are you going to defend against that?

            Were there defense insurance companies and affordable private armies throughout history that people simply failed to make use of when they were illegitimately conquered?

            We MUST have an easy and relatively painless method of opting out of agreements made by others.

            I agree that ease of exit is a measure of legitimacy, but there are other moral concerns, too, like defensible borders.

            I am open to arguments that the price of exit is too high, but having to move out of contiguous land is a reasonable exit price for mutual defense.

            Not quite that extreme…

            What I described is exactly the system under which we live now.

            Right, I keep narrowly addressing defense agreements while you keep addressing our entire present system. To that extent, I think we are talking past each other.

            I didn’t choose to be born in the US, (although I thank my lucky stars I was)

            You don’t see any tension there in saying that you do not consent yet revealing the US as a high preference of the available options?

            my parents couldn’t commit me to a social contract,

            They could until you were capable of choosing for yourself.

            and I didn’t agree to one myself. Where’s the consent?

            The consent began with your ancestors who immigrated to the US. It was passed along to you as part of that agreement and practical utility. Now you can decide for yourself whether to stay or leave, but that doesn’t entitle you to take land with you.

            Mass contiguous secession can be legitimate, but swiss cheese is not well defensible. Even if we ignore positive externalities of being in the middle of a community that defends itself without your help, by defending the borders, the community controls immigration to your land.

            I wouldn’t agree to be bound by a vote, no. Others may do so if they wish, but don’t conscript me into the club. The whole thing is about “free choice”.

            I agree, but reality has a way of limiting our options and pushing us to compromise.

            Give me choice or give me death.

            You argue that you are not being given a choice and yet you are not dead, which leads me to conclude that there are other factors at play here. πŸ™‚

            Thanks for Hoppe’s piece. I do think that private defense is plausible, but externally they would still be defending community borders against threats defined by the community.

          • Ron H.

            No, because I don’t think a mutual defense agreement necessitates all of the features of a state that you’ve listed.

            You are correct. It occurs to me that most of our difference is over the concept of “public” or “collective” property. I don’t believe we disagree about the rights connected to private property, and the owner’s right to defend their property as they see fit, subject to CCRs or other prior contracts and agreements. By extension, a group of private property owners could form a mutual defense agreement of any kind they wished, keeping in mind that a contract or agreement requires active and positive consent, often in the form of a signature.

            Would you say that a private community becomes a state if its CCRs address border security, like a gated community? Does it become a state if the CCRs put select issues to a vote?

            I consider a “state” to be any of a variety of forms of central government that has a monopoly on the use of force, the ability to tax, and the ability to act in the name of all persons within a geographic boundary defined by that state, usually without explicit consent. A gated community with CCRs doesn’t fit that description, as all property is privately held, and all owners within the community have chosen to abide by the CCRs as a condition of joining the community. A vote? Sure, if that’s one of the originally agreed terms. Such voting would be VERY limited in scope, like all other Homeowner Association authorities. Every action by the association would necessarily be limited by a list of explicit powers granted by the homeowners, and every action would need to promotion the *general* welfare of all the homeowners. Something that seems logical and simple enough, but it’s routinely ignored and misused in the US Constitution.


            In any case, I’m making no assumptions regarding how defense is provided, I’m just asserting that community borders would be agreed to, with constraints sufficient to address historical threats, because absent such agreements we’d eventually be annexed or invaded.

            Community being narrowly defined, we agree. My objection was to the presumption that the state is necessary to the provision of mutual defense, and our disagreement seems to revolve around who may control access to public places, and who may use them.

            I’m not sure borders as arbitrary lines in the sand are an important consideration in defending the US these days, as I don’t believe a massive land invasion of the type that landed at Normandy during WW2 is possible, considering modern technology. A modern invasion would more likely come out of the sky – something against which we have pretty good detection and neutralization capabilities. A hostile missile, for example, need not cross the US border before defensive action is taken.

            I agree with you as a matter of degree, but the question is, how are you going to defend against that?

            I understand I’m talking about what “should be”, and not “what is”, and I don’s see a clear path from here to there, but I would like to eventually see all goods and services – including justice, security – and mutual defense – provided by the free market with competition and choices, much like what we now have in the provision of food. Lots of grocery stores and restaurants. It’s likely the current bloated Leviathan will collapse under its own weight in the foreseeable future, at which time It will be necessary for people to take back the powers they previously granted the state.


            Were there defense insurance companies and affordable private armies throughout history that people simply failed to make use of when they were illegitimately conquered?

            Um…no, but times have changed. It’s no longer necessary to have a larger military force to deter attacks. Technology has made large armies pretty much obsolete.

            “I am open to arguments that the price of exit is too high, but having to move out of contiguous land is a reasonable exit price for mutual defense.”

            Sez who? Probably not the person having to move. Huemer’s treatment of this subject is the best I’ve encountered lately.

            Right, I keep narrowly addressing defense agreements while you keep addressing our entire present system. To that extent, I think we are talking past each other.

            Your right. I’ll ty to focus on defense only, but our entire system is one of the obstacles.


            You don’t see any tension there in saying that you do not consent yet revealing the US as a high preference of the available options?

            No. It’s a matter of degree. Of all the countries on Earth in which I might have been born, the US is among the least oppressive states, and has the highest overall standard of living. There are approximately 200 worse choices. Luck of the draw, I guess.

            They could until you were capable of choosing for yourself.

            You probably mean “acquiescence” in that context. I’m still doing that, but haven’t consented. Those who profess to act as my agents don’t even know I exist, don’t know whether I voted for them, and can show no agreement to which I’m a pary authorizing them to act on my behalf. Spooner had some very strong views on that subject.

            The consent began with your ancestors who immigrated to the US. It was passed along to you as part of that agreement and practical utility. Now you can decide for yourself whether to stay or leave, but that doesn’t entitle you to take land with you.

            There was no US at that time. It just appeared one day without the approval or consent of my ancestors. How can they be bound by what others have done? Would you say they consented by remaining on their own land when others decided it had become part of their jurisdiction?

            Or maybe my ancestors were kidnapped and brought to the US in the hold of a ship. No consent there. In any case, consent is required of each individual. No one can be bound by what long dead people have agreed to. Spooner has some strong opinions on that, which make sense to me. “Constitution Of No Authority”

            Mass contiguous secession can be legitimate, but swiss cheese is not well defensible.

            So people’s rights depend on the arbitrary political jurisdiction in which they happen to reside? A political entity claiming jurisdiction over a large area, (e.g. the state of Georgia) may secede, but smaller political entities such as individual counties or neighborhood may not? And the reason for the difference is that others are concerned about defensibility?

            So we only have those rights granted by other people.


            Even if we ignore positive externalities of being in the middle of a community that defends itself without your help, by defending the borders, the community controls immigration to your land.

            I have already agreed to that condition in my CCRs, in the event of an obvious threat of invasion. I would WANT to exclude armed combatants attempting to invade my community, but that’s not what’s happening in the US today, and isn’t very likely to ever happen. You are claiming with your borders argument that I have a right to determine not only who may live in my neighbor’s basement, but who may live 100 miles away from him.

            You argue that you are not being given a choice and yet you are not dead, which leads me to conclude that there are other factors at play here. πŸ™‚

            Acquiescence. Tolerance of some level of abuse.

          • Lacunaria

            Um…no, but times have changed. It’s no longer necessary to have a larger military force to deter attacks. Technology has made large armies pretty much obsolete.

            Ok, another one of our differences is that I’ve been evaluating my premises historically while you have been proposing a new system that perhaps could not have existed in the past and which you are not even sure how to achieve.

            So, when I point to the historical need to compromise on mutual defense including immigration, you reply that we won’t need to compromise that much in the future.

            And maybe you are right and we live in a brave new future enabled by and dependent upon technology, but I still think it is worthwhile to consider history as a decent baseline.

            “I am open to arguments that the price of exit is too high, but having to move out of contiguous land is a reasonable exit price for mutual defense.”

            Sez who? Probably not the person having to move. Huemer’s treatment of this subject is the best I’ve encountered lately.

            Does Huemer address the moral dilemma of a community restricting immigration to your middle property in order to protect their borders? Or otherwise annexing your (strategic) land to aid its defense?

            The consent began with your ancestors who immigrated to the US.

            There was no US at that time. It just appeared one day without the approval or consent of my ancestors.

            Then they were annexed unjustly, but I was assuming that you were the child of immigrants, as I am. And in my scenario, I don’t think you’ve addressed:

            (1) Do they consent by immigrating?

            (2) Is the state legitimate for those who have consented?

            How can they be bound by what others have done? Would you say they consented by remaining on their own land when others decided it had become part of their jurisdiction?

            I agree that is unjust to some extent. It may also be unjust for you to deprive historical nomads of that land, too.

            But the central problem that you face is: how do you defend against such unjust annexation?

            Specifically note cases where there was no outright military invasion which you keep focusing upon. In fact, there may have been no imposition at all initially, just small, incremental effects as the US asserted its authority or USians immigrated around you until you were de facto annexed without recourse.

            A political entity claiming jurisdiction over a large area, (e.g. the state of Georgia) may secede, but smaller political entities such as individual counties or neighborhood may not? And the reason for the difference is that others are concerned about defensibility?

            Yes, I thought you had even mentioned that a community might be justified in violating some of your property rights in order to defend itself and that you could then make your case in whatever effective court systems remained.

            So we only have those rights granted by other people.

            No, we have natural rights, but we must cooperate and even compromise with other people in order to effectively secure our rights.

            “Even if we ignore positive externalities of being in the middle of a community that defends itself without your help, by defending the borders, the community controls immigration to your land.”

            I have already agreed to that condition in my CCRs, in the event of an obvious threat of invasion.

            Great, but what is obvious to you may not be obvious to others and must be carefully defined in the agreement, not only protecting against military invasion but also softer threats of immigration and any other unanticipated or misinterpreted holes in the agreement as time goes on.

            You are claiming with your borders argument that I have a right to determine not only who may live in my neighbor’s basement, but who may live 100 miles away from him.

            Morally, I agree with you. From a blank slate, such distant immigration should have no effect on you and so you have no moral basis to interfere.

            But we are not quite at a blank slate. There is an “agreement” enforced to control distant external borders in exchange for low internal local restrictions.

            A US state may not restrict its own borders, for example, and Brennan’s assertion that we can get rid of external borders just as we’ve gotten rid of internal borders fundamentally ignores their respective roles and the dependence between them.

            Acquiescence. Tolerance of some level of abuse.

            Haha, “Give me liberty or give me death or I’ll just tolerate your abuse!” πŸ™‚ I don’t mean that as a jeer, I just thought it was funny. πŸ™‚

            But I agree — I would even say that some cases of explicit voluntary consent, such as becoming a chattel slave in exchange for food to survive, might be similarly tolerated until other options are possible.

          • Ron H.

            Ok, another one of our differences is that I’ve been evaluating my premises historically while you have been proposing a new system that perhaps could not have existed in the past and which you are not even sure how to achieve.

            Au Contraire! I don’t believe there’s any question that the current defensive capability of the US is more than adequate to detect and neutralize any large scale military threat from any other country on Earth. Most of this capability is technological in nature, and relatively fewer bodies are required to operate it. There’s not a country on Earth that would consider openly attacking the US. Our difference, unless I’ve missed something, has been over whether the strictly defensive parts of our gargantuan war machine could be successfully operated by private actors in a market environment instead of by the State.


            So, when I point to the historical need to compromise on mutual defense including immigration, you reply that we won’t need to compromise that much in the future.

            I don’t consider immigration to be a mutual defense issue. As I’ve written, it doesn’t seem reasonable to believe a full scale invasion could be trickled across our borders with Mexico and/or Canada without being detected, and I believe most immigrants, both legal and illegal are just what they appear to be. People seeking to improves their lives in the ‘land of opportunity’ (sorry about the micro-aggression) . So I can’t address both issues with one reply.

            And maybe you are right and we live in a brave new future enabled by and dependent upon technology, but I still think it is worthwhile to consider history as a decent baseline.

            Historically it was necessary for states to mobilize large armies and navies in order to invade and occupy another country. Detection was difficult, and the only defense was to mobilize an equally capable army and navy. This was the case up through the middle of the 20th Century, but it’s longer the only option in the 21st Century. The invasion of Normandy by the Allies during WW2 would not have succeeded today due to improved technology.

            Does Huemer address the moral dilemma of a community restricting immigration to your middle property in order to protect their borders?

            This is a question about public places and who controls them. Huemer addesses the question in his analogy of “Starvin’ Marvin”. We can assume that the road to market is public, and open to everyone. An argument against Marvin’s access to the market who may live in another country is no different than an argument against Bob’s access, who lives in the next town.

            Or otherwise annexing your (strategic) land to aid its defense?

            I’m not aware of anything specific to this narrow issue, but Huemer rejects the political authority of the state, and therefore, obviously, eminent domain. He supports self ownership, self determination, individual private property rights, and freedom of association. He doesn’t insist on absolutes, and suggests that at the very extremes there may be exceptions, and it may be may be permissable to violate property rights to prevent a much greater evil ( it’s permissible to break into an unoccupied cabin to save your life when you are lost, freezing and starving in a blinding snowstorm.) So I don’t know how I would answer that precisely.

            Your example suggests that I’m unwilling to act in my own defense, and someone else believes they should make important decisions for me.

            Then they were annexed unjustly, but I was assuming that you were the child of immigrants, as I am.

            I am the child of immigrants, but they did so before there was a US. I have no way of knowing whether their dealings with Native Americans were honorable or dishonorable, but unless someone can produce a stronger claim to my property, I will assume I have come by it honestly. An added benefit of rejecting political authority is the concomitant rejection of personal responsibility for the misdeeds of political agents who are long dead.


            And in my scenario, I don’t think you’ve addressed:

            (1) Do they consent by immigrating?

            (2) Is the state legitimate for those who have consented?

            (1) I would say that illegal immigrants don’t consent, and about legal immigrant I’m unsure. I think it would depend on what they were required to agreed to in the formal process, something with which I’m unfamiliar.

            (2) Yes. Anything a person voluntarily agrees to is legitimate as it relates to them. When I join a bowling league it is a legitimate authority relating to my bowling activities and responsibilities for the duration of my voluntary and consensual membership. Note that I’m not requires to move out of the community to indicate my opting out. If I don’t actively opt in, ‘m not a member. It’s that simple. Non-members are under no obligation to recognize the bowling league’s authority.


            I agree that is unjust to some extent. It may also be unjust for you to deprive historical nomads of that land, too.

            Yes. It’s a real possibility that my ancestors mistreated native peoples, but I have no way of knowing. I invite them to produce a stronger claim. We know for sure that native people were treated atrociously by people that resemble me, but since they didn’t act on my behalf or on my authority, I’m not responsible for their actions, even though I’m appalled by them, and wish those things had never happened.

            But the central problem that you face is: how do you defend against such unjust annexation?

            http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/65/6542/QMJ4100Z/posters/homeland-security-fighting-terrorism-since-1492-native-americans.jpg

            I defend against it by actively engaging a mutual defense agency or agencies that perform functions similar to to those currently provided by the State. I may hire such services directly myself, or indirectly through my insurance company which has a strong incentive to prevent damage to my insured interests. That doesn’t mean I will never be annexed, but the likelihood seems no greater than it is today with Leviathan protecting me.

            Especially since Leviathan continually travels the world poking hornet’s nests, causing some few of the hornets to find their way to Leviathan’s den where I live, where they explode.

            Specifically note cases where there was no outright military invasion which you keep focusing upon. In fact, there may have been no imposition at all initially, just small, incremental effects as the US asserted its authority or USians immigrated around you until you were de facto annexed without recourse.

            Do you suppose immigrants will pull off a similar stunt if I don’t keep them out? You’re aware, of course, that western culture and technology – especially US western culture and technology – continues to spread around the world, not the other way around. It is probably the most robust and widely spread culture since the Romans, so I don’t worry about the US losing it’s cultural identity as some people seem to do.

            Yes, I thought you had even mentioned that a community might be justified in violating some of your property rights in order to defend itself and that you could then make your case in whatever effective court systems remained.

            It’s possible I wrote that, as I’ve written a lot in the last week, so I’ll just take your word for it. There are extremes at which absolutes may not be the most moral course to pursue. I can’t really imagine a case where I would refused to defend my own property while others in the community fought off invaders. If I concurred that an emergency existed, and was working cooperatively with others, then my rights wouldn’t be violated.

            Of course that has nothing to do with immigration.

            No, we have natural rights, but we must cooperate and even compromise with other people in order to effectively secure our rights.

            I’m not sure I’ve disagreed with that. I don’t know if I would use the word “must”, but it’s often in our own best interest to cooperate and compromise.

            “Great, but what is obvious to you may not be obvious to others and must be carefully defined in the agreement…

            That’s why we produce written agreements with consent indicated by signature and witnessing, after careful discussions of what is to be agreed.

            …not only protecting against military invasion but also softer threats of immigration and any other unanticipated or misinterpreted holes in the agreement as time goes on.

            I’m not sure what softer threats the community faces from foreign immigration that don’t also exist when people arrive from Boise, ID. Please elaborate.

            Morally, I agree with you. From a blank slate, such distant immigration should have no effect on you and so you have no moral basis to interfere.

            But we are not quite at a blank slate. There is an “agreement” enforced to control distant external borders in exchange for low internal local restrictions.

            An agreement to which I’m not a party. I’m not sure how such an “agreement” makes sense. I’m certainly in as much danger from people who have unrestricted access to my neighborhood as I am from people living in Mexico or Canada, who can’t visit me at my invitation without the permission of people I don’t even know, and who don’t know me.

            Case in point, the San Bernardino shooters were US citizens who lived and worked in San Bernardino, The man, Syed Farook was born in the US and was a SB County employee who frequently worked duties in the building in which the shooting took place. He had card key access, so he and his wife just waltzed in unchallenged to do their dirty work. The guns they carried were all legally purchased. How can anyone prevent something like that? The answer is they can’t. No amount of military might, border security, collecting emails and phone call metadata, or groping at airports can prevent this type of homegrown atrocity. What might have greatly reduced the number of deaths and injuries is if someone had been firing back, but of course the county building is a gun free zone.

            A US state may not restrict its own borders, for example, and Brennan’s assertion that we can get rid of external borders just as we’ve gotten rid of internal borders fundamentally ignores their respective roles and the dependence between them.

            I think he’s right. Both internal and external US borders are arbitrary lines in the sand representing limits of political authority. There may be places in the world where hostilities prevent normal interactions among people across those imaginary lines, but the US isn’t one of them.


            >Haha, “Give me liberty or give me death or I’ll just tolerate your abuse!” πŸ™‚ I don’t mean that as a jeer, I just thought it was funny. πŸ™‚

            It is funny, I agree, but it explains why every minor violation of rights need not result in a shootout. T. Jefferson wrote something about that in the Declaration of Independence: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

            But I agree — I would even say that some cases of explicit voluntary consent, such as becoming a chattel slave in exchange for food to survive, might be similarly tolerated until other options are possible.

            That’s an interesting example because it highlights the concept of inalienable rights. While someone could transfer some of their rights to the use of their own bodies on a conditional basis, it’s not possible to do so on an unconditional basis, as no one can give up their will. They could always change their minds and on their own volition try to escape, thus belying the notion that they were someone else’s property.

          • Lacunaria
            Ok, another one of our differences is that I’ve been evaluating my premises historically while you have been proposing a new system that perhaps could not have existed in the past and which you are not even sure how to achieve.

            Au Contraire! I don’t believe there’s any question that the current defensive capability of the US is more than adequate to detect and neutralize any large scale military threat from any other country on Earth. Most of this capability is technological in nature, and relatively fewer bodies are required to operate it.

            How is that “contraire” to what I said? You are still arguing new technology rather than history and you are still asserting effects of the present massive US military superiority which wouldn’t exist in your system.

            Our difference, unless I’ve missed something, has been over whether the strictly defensive parts of our gargantuan war machine could be successfully operated by private actors in a market environment instead of by the State.

            No, our difference has been over whether, absent a State, people would still agree to control immigration into their communities, beyond solely defending against blatant massive armed invasions.

            I have been asserting that they would overwhelmingly do so at some level (and that external borders enable reducing internal borders), while you and Brennan have been asserting that this service currently provided by all States is not only unnecessary but also immoral and therefore it should have no private analog.

            I don’t consider immigration to be a mutual defense issue.

            Right, you consider it to be an internal security issue that just so happens to originate from the outside. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me? πŸ™‚

            This is a question about public places and who controls them. Huemer addesses the question in his analogy of “Starvin’ Marvin”. We can assume that the road to market is public, and open to everyone.

            It sounds like you are assuming your conclusion. At present, roads are only “public” within countries, not necessarily between countries.

            The Starvin’ Marvin analogy is contrived to ignore context and effects other than the free trade of physically present labor. Trading goods does not necessitate entitlement to immigration.

            An argument against Marvin’s access to the market who may live in another country is no different than an argument against Bob’s access, who lives in the next town.

            Sure, if we ignore any difference in agreements regarding borders and laws, and assuming, as Huemer does, that there is no moral reason to favor some immigrants over others. Even Huemer does not do away with border control vetting who you may invite to dinner.

            Your example suggests that I’m unwilling to act in my own defense, and someone else believes they should make important decisions for me.

            No, my example suggested that you may be unwilling to act in the defense of others. i.e. your community violated your property rights in order to better defend themselves.

            The moral dilemma is how to handle hold-outs when other people’s security is at issue.

            Bear in mind that people regularly disagree over what constitutes threats. Revolutionaries vs. Loyalists, Israelis vs. Palestinians, Russians vs. Ukrainians, etc.

            I am the child of immigrants, but they did so before there was a US.

            Fascinating. So, your ancestors opposed adopting the Constitution? They never consented?

            An added benefit of rejecting political authority is the concomitant rejection of personal responsibility for the misdeeds of political agents who are long dead.

            Doesn’t it seem a little too convenient that you are free from their misdeeds, and yet you still trace the illegitimacy of exit hurdles back to the misdeed of annexation?

            (1) I would say that illegal immigrants don’t consent, and about legal immigrant I’m unsure. I think it would depend on what they were required to agreed to in the formal process, something with which I’m unfamiliar.

            That’s kind of funny — illegal immigrants don’t consent, much like a thief doesn’t consent to your ownership of your property.

            Assuming that all legal immigrants consent, wouldn’t that make the exit hurdle legitimate for most people?

            I may hire such services directly myself, or indirectly through my insurance company which has a strong incentive to prevent damage to my insured interests.

            On what authority? You have been arguing that you can only prevent immigration if it is a massive armed invasion, right? How will you defend against other immigration that increases threats to you or impacts internal security or results in de facto control over your community? Do you think your insurance premiums will be independent of immigration?

            Alternately, you have also been arguing that people can form agreements regarding immigration, and that is exactly my point — they will most certainly do so when the State ceases to do it, which generally makes immigration a legitimate communal concern.

            That doesn’t mean I will never be annexed, but the likelihood seems no greater than it is today with Leviathan protecting me.

            The likelihood would be much greater because your community would only be defending against cases of blatant military invasion, not crime or political changes due to immigration.

            Specifically note cases where there was no outright military invasion…

            Do you suppose immigrants will pull off a similar stunt if I don’t keep them out?

            Do you mean if the US government gave up control over its territory and external borders except for stopping blatant massive military invasions, as you’ve been proposing?

            If so, then yes, similar “stunts” of annexation would happen. There have long existed movements claiming that US territory should belong to Mexico or Aztlan or Native Tribes (as your humorous image suggests), etc.

            It is probably the most robust and widely spread culture since the Romans, so I don’t worry about the US losing it’s cultural identity as some people seem to do.

            Does “culture” include the classically liberal morals of the US founders? Does it include the social mores surrounding rape or honor killings? Or are you defining culture as Hollywood, fashion, food preference, and fungible or irrelevant rituals?

            I’m not sure what softer threats the community faces from foreign immigration that don’t also exist when people arrive from Boise, ID. Please elaborate.

            By “softer”, I’m referring to threats that are not as blatant as massive military invasions, including crime and political conflicts and even eventual internal war or annexation that can result from immigration.

            For example, most of the US was annexed without a massive military invasion, right? How should your ancestors have defended themselves?

            But we are not quite at a blank slate. There is an “agreement” enforced to control distant external borders in exchange for low internal local restrictions.

            An agreement to which I’m not a party. I’m not sure how such an “agreement” makes sense.

            That’s why I put “agreement” in quotes. My point is simply that external borders are in exchange for less internal borders. They go together.

            I’m certainly in as much danger from people who have unrestricted access to my neighborhood as I am from people living in Mexico or Canada, who can’t visit me at my invitation without the permission of people I don’t even know, and who don’t know me.

            Visit? Is that all Starvin’ Marvin is doing? Has the US been too restrictive regarding who can visit you? Are you saying that your private security force wouldn’t vet people at all?

            Case in point, the San Bernardino shooters were US citizens who lived and worked in San Bernardino, The man, Syed Farook was born in the US

            Brennan’s immigration statistics make similar categorizations. They would not consider the incident to be related to immigration because he was born here. They do not even distinguish legal and illegal immigration, nor by source, nor by situation.

            I agree that no amount of controls will eliminate all terrorism, but that doesn’t mean that one immigrant is the same as any other immigrant.

            A US state may not restrict its own borders, for example, and Brennan’s assertion that we can get rid of external borders just as we’ve gotten rid of internal borders fundamentally ignores their respective roles and the dependence between them.

            I think he’s right. Both internal and external US borders are arbitrary lines in the sand representing limits of political authority.

            Your property lines may be “arbitrary” and “imaginary”, too, but they are likewise also significant.

            There may be places in the world where hostilities prevent normal interactions among people across those imaginary lines, but the US isn’t one of them.

            And part of that is due to border control. Your argument is built on the effects of the very features you are arguing against.

            I am in favor of open immigration absent hostilities, but it’s up to each State (or community) to determine that line for themselves. When open borders within the Schengen Area were abused as judged by each State, some of them reasserted their internal borders, as is their right.

          • Ron H.

            How is that “contraire” to what I said? You are still arguing new technology rather than history and you are still asserting effects of the present massive US military superiority which wouldn’t exist in your system.

            You wrote “…while you have been proposing a new system that perhaps could not have existed in the past and which you are not even sure how to achieve.

            Au Contraire! I’m not proposing a new system, I’m proposing private provision of the defense systems that currently exist.


            No, our difference has been over whether, absent a State, people would still agree to control immigration into their communities, beyond solely defending against blatant massive armed invasions.

            OK I will limit my utterances to immigration.

            I have been asserting that they would overwhelmingly do so at some level (and that external borders enable reducing internal borders), while you and Brennan have been asserting that this service currently provided by all States is not only unnecessary but also immoral and therefore it should have no private analog.

            I have differentiated between private and public property. Private property owners, individually or as a group have every right to control access to their individual or group property in any way they wish. They have no right to restrict access to property over which they have no legitimate authority, say, a “border” 100 miles away. You are claiming that some property owners may assign an agent to make choices for everyone within a geographic territory, and limit their freedom of association. I reject that notion entirely, and we may be stuck with irreconcilable differences on this point.

            Right, you consider it to be an internal security issue that just so happens to originate from the outside. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me? πŸ™‚

            Limiting this discussion to the US and it’s borders, I make no particular distinction between a visitor crossing from Sonora to New Mexico and one crossing from Colorado to New Mexico. There are no political or military hostilities between any of those states, so a person in any one of those states would be subject to the internal security measures in place in that state or community. If it’s necessary to keep people from Sonora out of New Mexico, then it makes as much sense to keep people from Colorado out also. The same would be true of people traveling between Alberta and Montana.

            The Starvin’ Marvin analogy is contrived to ignore context and effects other than the free trade of physically present labor. Trading goods does not necessitate entitlement to immigration.

            Notice it’s the “local market”, the market is open, and there are willing traders who will do business with Marvin. There’s no indication why Marvin shouldn’t be allowed to proceed, we only know that Sam bared his way “for some reason” What legitimate authority does Sam have to deny him access?

            Sure, if we ignore any difference in agreements regarding borders and laws, and assuming, as Huemer does, that there is no moral reason to favor some immigrants over others.

            These agreements regarding borders are the very problem we’re discussing here. Under what authority do they operate? And as I’ve just written, I don’t favor one immigrant over another either. We may assume peaceful intentions unless we have reason to suspect otherwise. Coming from Mexico isn’t reason to suspect otherwise. This may be another sticking point.

            BTW I use the example of Mexico and Mexican immigrants because the issue is well known to most of us.

            No, my example suggested that you may be unwilling to act in the defense of others. i.e. your community violated your property rights in order to better defend themselves.

            I’m under no obligation to defend others, nor they me, absent prior agreement, and of course basic human decency. You haven’t explained why my community thought it necessary to violate my property rights. Is someone else’s judgment superior to mine?

            <blockquote.The moral dilemma is how to handle hold-outs when other people's security is at issue.

            The moral dilemma would seem to be: Who gets to decide?

            Bear in mind that people regularly disagree over what constitutes threats. Revolutionaries vs. Loyalists, Israelis vs. Palestinians, Russians vs. Ukrainians, etc.

            Poor Mexican immigrant families on foot vs. heavily armed border patrol agents in Humvees.

            Fascinating. So, your ancestors opposed adopting the Constitution? They never consented?

            Didn’t you just claim they were unfairly annexed? what’s changed? πŸ™‚ I don’t know whether they opposed the Constitution, they may not have been consulted on the matter. Making decisions for others without their consent isn’t just a recent problem, you know.

            On what authority?

            On my own, of course, I can certainly hire a private company to detect and prevent hostile invasions of my community if I wish.

            You have been arguing that you can only prevent immigration if it is a massive armed invasion, right?

            I can deter agressive, hostile threats from any scource of whatever size.

            How will you defend against other immigration that increases threats to you or impacts internal security or results in de facto control over your community?

            Like what? A numerically superior and better armed community of immigrants nearby? Numerous criminally inclined immigrants buying properties in my neighborhood? Remember that we don’t vote in Ancapistan, so that’s not an issue.

            To be Continued:

          • Lacunaria

            Au Contraire! I’m not proposing a new system, I’m proposing private provision of the defense systems that currently exist.

            How do you privatize while holding everything else constant? Privatization will affect the size and nature of defense and how disagreements over threats are resolved, all of which amounts to a new system.

            The massive US defense system that you keep appealing to probably wouldn’t exist, which is in fact one of the features of privatization — except perhaps in a few key cases where obscenely overwhelming force is useful have or useful to argue.

            Would there have been an arms race with the USSR? Would the US still dominate and police the globe? How would it look compared to China at this point? Privatization is such a big unknown that it leaves these questions wide open.

            I have differentiated between private and public property. Private property owners, individually or as a group have every right to control access to their individual or group property in any way they wish.

            Right, so our disagreement focuses upon (1) what “public property” entitles people to who are outside of a community/country, and (2) how pervasive consent to borders will be if you privatize.

            You are claiming that some property owners may assign an agent to make choices for everyone within a geographic territory, and limit their freedom of association. I reject that notion entirely, and we may be stuck with irreconcilable differences on this point.

            No, I am asserting that if the overwhelming majority of your community wants to enforce encompassing external borders, they will do so, and therefore you must defend against that eventuality if you want indiscriminate, open community borders.

            You can appeal to your elite defense force or insurance company to keep you from that eventuality, but the larger the discrepancy between what you want and what your community wants, the larger the price tag for you. Practically speaking, you are going to have to belong to a community that largely agrees with you on security and what qualifies as a threat.

            There’s no indication why Marvin shouldn’t be allowed to proceed, we only know that Sam bared his way “for some reason” What legitimate authority does Sam have to deny him access?

            “There’s no indication” because Huemer explicitly assumed away all reasons to deny him access in his premise. That is what makes it contrived.

            Sure, if we ignore any difference in agreements regarding borders and laws, and assuming, as Huemer does, that there is no moral reason to favor some immigrants over others.

            These agreements regarding borders are the very problem we’re discussing here. Under what authority do they operate?

            They operate morally or by consent.

            (1) Morally: if there is a great enough threat against enough of the community, then they may be justified in preventing immigration to your land for their own protection, as we have discussed.

            Granted, this opens a can of worms because the community itself determines what qualifies as a threat, but this cannot be avoided except by joining a community that agrees with you on what qualifies as a threat and preventing changes to that agreement.

            (2) Consent: if the State no longer exists, I am asserting that consent would still be very high for border control at some level. You want indiscriminately open borders? Great, but you are still going to have to form a community that agrees with you.

            “No, my example suggested that you may be unwilling to act in the defense of others. i.e. your community violated your property rights in order to better defend themselves.”

            I’m under no obligation to defend others, nor they me, absent prior agreement, and of course basic human decency. You haven’t explained why my community thought it necessary to violate my property rights. Is someone else’s judgment superior to mine?

            The scenario is: increasing immigration which members of your community view as a threat but you do not. They have been preventing immigration to your property. You and the community have been unable to agree on a court for adjudication.

            I don’t know whether they opposed the Constitution, they may not have been consulted on the matter. Making decisions for others without their consent isn’t just a recent problem, you know.

            Sure, but your illegitimacy argument is based upon the premise that your ancestors never consented, isn’t it?

            And when your ancestors sold their land, if they purchased other land within the US, is that land then subject to US law if the seller consented to the US?

            “How will you defend against other immigration that increases threats to you or impacts internal security or results in de facto control over your community?”

            Like what? A numerically superior and better armed community of immigrants nearby? Numerous criminally inclined immigrants buying properties in my neighborhood? Remember that we don’t vote in Ancapistan, so that’s not an issue.

            Sure, criminal immigration, or simply immigration and then establishment of a different community. Consider Israel, for example. Significant Jewish immigration that eventually led to the establishment of a Jewish State.

          • Ron H.

            Sorry for my long delay! I’m still swamped but wanted to get a few thoughts out there. Please let me know if you feel I’ve missed addressing a central point.

            Ahh. glad to hear from you. I was afraid I had thrown such a TL;DR at you that you had quit in disgust.

            I had a reply completed and ready to go and somehow I’ve lost it. Now I’m bummed and can’t seem to get up the enthusiasm to rewrite it right now. I’ll try again tomorrow.

          • Lacunaria

            It may have posted and I may have just responded to it. πŸ™‚

  • Theresa Klein

    You left out what I consider the only good reason:
    It’s probably not a good idea to allow too much immigration from a culture that harbors a violent fanatical movement which openly declares it’s hatred for your country and it’s intention to kill as many of it’s citizens as possible.

    Do note that this argument doesn’t apply to Mexico.

    • Sean II

      You’re right about the peaceable nature of our southern neighbors. One can’t say the words “Mexican suicide bomber” without getting big laughs.

      But you’re wrong to think violent religious fanaticism is the only thing a society like ours might rationally need to exclude.

      Just sticking with the obvious: the United States will certainly not benefit from having another massive (ethnically mobilized) block of voters (latent or patent) who automatically (and quite uncritically) support anybody with a (D) beside their name. Indeed, we’re just barely clinging to the pseudo-market side of a mixed economy as it is. Give us another decade of 1930s or 1960s style one-party domination, and it’s game over for rational economic policy in the world’s greatest economy.

      That threat, Theresa, is far more probable than swarming jihadism, and in the long run far more damaging to our way of life than a thousand Charlie Hebdos.

      • Theresa Klein

        It’s hard to claim that we have a “culture” that supports free market liberalism, when ~50% of the country consistently votes the other way. And you can’t really exclude immigrants on the basis of their (non-violent) political views unless you’re willing to grant the D’s the same power to exclude libertarian or conservative immigrants.

        • Sean II

          Statist political views are NOT non-violent.

          As for sentence #2: Oh, sure you can.

          How exactly are you getting from “we don’t have enough liberals as it is” to “we must therefore invite in as many non-liberals as we can find”.

          That’s just ridiculous. Try the same approach in some other areas of life. For example: “this dog already has fleas, so there’s really no point in trying to protect him against mites, ticks, worms, and a shitload more fleas. Wouldn’t want to be hypocrites, after all.”

          What you said, sounds just like that.

        • Hollis Butts

          I’m stuck on wondering where these libertarian immigrants would be coming from.

  • I don’t have anything new or interesting to add to the threads relating to illiberality, Muslims, etc. However I did want to explore a bit the question of immigration and a nation/state’s distinct culture, apart from any concerns about crime, etc. One way to approach this issue is simply to prioritize economic and social well-being over “national culture”: If open borders and mass immigration were to improve the fortunes of everyone already in, say, Germany, as well as those newly immigrating to Germany, as well as the world population at large, then it would be of little or no importance if within a few generations nothing and no one within the borders of Germany was recognizably “German”. I presume there are some people among both libertarians and progressives who hold this position or something close to it. (I presume few if any conservatives do so.)

    For other people who do care about national culture, the key questions are I think what determines a nation’s culture, and how might a nation/state maintain it? For the first question my off-the-cuff answer is that national culture is a function of the following: 1) shared life experiences both small (e.g., school life) and large (e.g., wars, political upheavals, cultural touchstones, etc.); 2) stereotypical personality traits (e.g., expressed as population averages on various dimensions of personality, considered relative to averages in other nations); 3) acceptance of a particular national narrative (“stories nations tell themselves”) and one’s participation in it; and 4) in-group markers like language and accent, religion, style of dress, food preferences, etc.

    So what happens to national culture in the face of immigration? Clearly new immigrants will not have shared life experiences with existing citizens, so successful maintenance of national culture depends on the extent to which they can match up on the other three factors. The worst case is obviously trying to absorb immigrants whose personalities are very different than the existing population average, who refuse to acknowledge and accept the dominant national narrative, and who persist in talking, worshipping, dressing, eating, etc., in “foreign” ways, even in second and subsequent generations. And of course the more of that sort of immigrant there are then the worse the impact on national culture.

    So what’s a nation/state to do? Regarding “personality compatibility”, historically countries have used race and national origin as a crude proxy for that when allowing immigration, but there’s likely better ways, for example formal evaluations of prospective immigrants, or probationary periods to see who’s successful in assimilating and who’s not prior to granting full citizenship. As for acceptance of the national narrative and acquiring the cultural markers, I think Brennan’s comments along these lines are a sort of rhetorical trick: His phrasing implies that the need to maintain a distinct national culture will entail doing all those illiberal things (censoring ideas, monitoring languages spoken at home, mandating participation in cultural practices) to everyone in the nation.

    But this need not be true at all, at least not if one accepts Mark Friedman’s position (which I share) that fellow citizens stand in a different relation to us than prospective immigrants. In otherwise liberal societies there are in fact two groups for which “forced indoctrination” of a sort is acceptable, namely children in compulsory public education and immigrants applying for citizenship. In both cases people see many arguably illiberal measures as acceptable to mandate learning and compliance in the service of national culture. But at least in the U.S. we exempt native-born adult citizens from these measures because they’ve already “run this gauntlet” as children, whatever the results, and we’re not going to force them to run it any more.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      Hey, Frank, in case I forgot to mention it before…I’ve always thought very highly of you.

      • (blush…) Well, I might as well take advantage of this opportunity to make a point that just came to mind regarding people and their compatibility with the dominant national culture (as opposed to being gauche and replying to my own comment).

        A major part of American national culture is a persistent strain of populism, dating from at least the early 19th century. On the other hand, polygyny is a profoundly anti-populist practice: when implemented it typically results in old, rich, and powerful men acquiring multiple wives and thereby depriving younger, poorer, and less powerful men of potential marriage partners.

        So what we would get if a group of Americans formally adopted and promoted polygyny, even if they were white, native-born, and self-professed Christians? You’d get Mormons, a group so at odds with the dominant culture that they first had to remove themselves from the main body of American society in order to survive, and then later had to formally renounce polygyny in order to gain some measure of social acceptance.

        My point being: Nations do have distinct cultures, and worrying about people’s compatibility with those cultures is not necessarily merely a smoke screen for racism, xenophobia, or religious intolerance.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          Agreed, particularly with respect to their willingness to abide by the rule of law.

        • Sean II

          That’s a perfect example.

        • Kurt H

          Given that the “distinct cultures” of nations are typically associated with their ethnic/racial makeup and that anti-immigration types are concerned about the cultural impact of people with different ethnic/racial backgrounds, it doesn’t seem like much of a leap to conclude that concern about “national culture” is really a concern about race and ethnicity.

          In fact, that would seem to be the null hypothesis, especially given that “culture” is an inherently squishy concept, and that it is no longer socially acceptable to make overt arguments about racial supremacy. To conclude otherwise would require some kind of coherent theory of what national culture is, and why it is worth preserving.

          In the absence of such a theory, the conclusion that anti-immigrant sentiment is driven primarily by racism stands.

          • I’ve already offered a tentative definition of national culture: It’s a combination of shared life experiences + characteristic national personality type (e.g., population average on the HEXACO scale or similar) + commitment to a common national narrative + group markers (language, religion, dress, diet, etc.). Please feel free to critique it. Note that this definition is not directly tied to race/ethnicity, and under this definition it is in theory possible for members of one ethnic group to join in a common national culture with members of another.

            As to why preserving a national culture is important, reasons might include it being a critical component of self-identity and fostering a sense of “fictive kinship” that helps foster both small- and large-scale social and economic cooperation, including cooperation in support of both local and national security. Again, please feel free to judge the reality and (if real) relative importance of these factors.

          • Kurt H

            If you throw everything into culture, the concept becomes useless. So, a critical part of any such theory is to determine what factors matter, and which ones don’t. Another huge issue is how do we distinguish between a *change* in the culture and an *erosion* of the culture. In order for the concept to be useful in determining policy, we would need to know what sorts of changes would be detrimental.

            There is another critique that damages this concept, IMO fatally, and that is what if there are multiple combinations of these variables that foster this boost to cooperation that you are claiming? If so, then it could be optimal to push a society off of the current equilibrium and onto a different one. Short term losses could be outweighed by long term gains. So, even if you can define national culture coherently (which no one ever has) and you could determine what would damage that culture (also dubious), you will still need to demonstrate that the it was optimal to remain on the current cultural combination (even more dubious). Only then would this argument begin to work in favor of immigration restrictions.

            This is a tall order, which I think is why the much simpler “keep out the Mexicans” arguments seem to rule the day.

          • Sean II

            Your premise – asserted without argument – that national culture is some murky thing…it’s dead wrong.

            “German order”, “Canadian politeness”, “Japanese secular rationality”, etc. People successfully use these concepts every day to communicate useful information with little risk of misunderstanding. Indeed, being able to accurately describe the character and flavor of different nations is part of being a literate person. No one says “Mexican precision” or “Icelandic wit”.

            When a concept promotes broad agreement and avoids misunderstanding like that, we call it clear.

          • Kurt H

            If German immigration policy kept out disorganized people or Canadian policy kept out rude people, then you might have a relevant point. But there isn’t a country on earth with an immigration policy based on making sure Disney World doesn’t have to renovate Epcot too often.

            Even if these broad national stereotypes constituted a solid “national culture” — you also need to demonstrate why it would need to be static. Would Canada collapse into chaos if the average Canadian was more assertive? Would America collapse if the average citizen was *less* of douchebag? These don’t really seem like cultural features upon which civilization hinges.

            If you want to justify preventing people from commiting the “terrible evil” of moving and changing jobs, you’re going to need a bit more than the dire threat of a sudden outbreak of rude Canadians.

          • Sean II

            So just to be clear: you are now conceding that national culture exists?

            You’ve simply changed your position to state something like “Okay, national culture exists but it’s never worth defending by way of border control?”

            That about right?

          • Sorry to still be commenting on an old post, I’ll try to make this the last one. Re “German order”, etc., I don’t think the situation is necessarily quite as straightforward as all that. Here follows ill-informed speculation based on a superficial skimming of some relevant literature: The most current research (e.g., “The Inaccuracy of National Character Stereotypes”, McCrae, et. al.) suggests that a country’s citizens’ collective opinion on national character (consensual autostereotype) is not that correlated with population average personality as tested. So, end of story, right?

            But… there is also some evidence that national character stereotypes are correlated with actual behavior. (Analogy from the above paper: If you go to a military base you’ll see more-conscientious-than-normal behavior consistent with the stereotype of soldiers, even though actual soldiers may score no higher on average on this trait than civilians do.) So my off-the-cuff take: National character stereotypes may have originated based on particular exemplars (national heroes, favored elites), been subsequently exaggerated as markers of national identity (“we people of country X are *obviously* different from our neighbors in countries A, B, and C), and ultimately evolved into social norms influencing behavior (“this is what a true X-er would do”).

            The connection with immigration? If the flow of immigrants from country Y into country X is relatively small, and country X practices “forced indoctrination” (as I previously discussed) combined with informal enforcement of social norms around national stereotypes (“You’re an X-er now, you should act like it”) then we should expect the immigrants to sooner or later self-identify as “people of X” and behave accordingly, particularly if the national character stereotypes of X and Y are relatively “compatible” in some sense.

            But if the flow is large and country X takes a laissez-faire attitude around issues of national culture and identity, then it’s possible that the immigrants from Y will end up conceiving of themselves not as “X-ers” but rather as “Y-ers, living in X”. And if the social norms implied by the respective national character stereotypes are more “incompatible” then it raises the possibility of social conflict, as what might be positive in the original context (“we Y-ers are relaxed informal people”) becomes seen as negative in the new context (“those Y-ers are lazy bums who don’t show up to work on time”).

            End of unproven but I think somewhat plausible speculation. It would be interesting to see more extensive research around questions like these.

          • Sean II

            It would, of course. But I’m afraid there is almost no one in a position to conduct such research who doesn’t also have a powerful incentive to rig the game.

          • I actually think changes to most aspects of national culture are relatively neutral, and I don’t think that there is one optimal combination from which a move away in any direction would be bad. It’s likely more the speed at which changes take place that concerns people; this is where you get comments like “this doesn’t seem like the country I grew up in”. There will always be a fraction of people who object to change, no matter how small; the problem is when the fraction of people feeling threatened in this way becomes really large.

            While I don’t believe in the idea of an optimal configuration for a national culture, I do believe that at least some cultural changes have potentially negative effects. As for how you would measure “erosion” of or “damage” to a culture, I’d look to national measures of inter-personal trust, trust in social and political institutions, crime levels (especially for violent crimes against persons), levels of corruption, frequency and severity of social conflicts (e.g., riots, violent labor actions, domestic terrorism, all-out civil war), acceptance of a common national narrative (or a population split between competing narratives), and so on.

            Again, to repeat what I wrote earlier, concerns about culture, social cohesion, etc., don’t justify resisting every cultural change or every attempt to correct gross injustices. However I think they do justify prudence about what types of cultural change we promote or endorse, the speed at which we do so, and the extent to which we attempt to correct injustices affecting people who are not our fellow citizens.

    • Sean II

      I second Mark’s motion.

      This is what a sane, rational comment on the matter looks like.

  • Rob Gressis

    Just out of curiosity, Jason, what do you think of the following parallel:

    We should try to prevent US citizens from getting murdered.” Oh? Just US citizens? Why not protect all people?

    We should provide a universal basic income for US citizens.” Oh? Just US citizens? Why not provide a universal basic income for all people?

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      Or, as a write in this link, http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2016/02/internal-migration-and-open-borders/:

      Anyone who denies the existence of this special obligation [to US citizens] must explain not just why it is wrong for the national government to favor American interests with respect to immigration, but in a whole range of other cases. For example, the federal government is morally obligated, on behalf of its citizens, to maintain a military apparatus sufficient to deter attacks on its territory and to otherwise defend their rights, including the prosecution of just wars. But, it is absurd to think that it has the same moral obligation with respect to the citizens of France, Belgium, Japan, etc.

      Similarly, if, as in the Jim Crow South, an electoral majority oppresses the minority under color of law, the federal government is morally required to intervene. But, if the Sunni oppress the Shia in Saudi Arabia, we act or not entirely at our discretion. For the same reason, if a natural disaster of epic proportions overwhelms the ability of (say) Alabama to render effective assistance to the victims, the federal government is duty-bound to respond, but aid to Bangladesh under similar circumstances would be supererogatory.

  • Jod

    There is some rather unconvincing ‘reductio’ going on here with the cultural argument. I can think of one small nation whose language would disappear without restrictions promoting the admission of those who speak their language. They have laws defending this. It is, indeed, illiberal (it curtails a liberty), but it does not need to ‘go to the logical conclusion’ and force people to speak the official language at home, etc. Every law could be declared absurd with such a reductio.
    To make your case, you need to explain why the community goal of linguistic self-preservation is insufficiently worthy to merit restrictions on new settlers from outside.
    Generally, opponents of restrictions treat these cultural issues as xenophobia, but that is a very weak claim, usually made by those (American English-speakers) who couldn’t imagine their language disappearing.
    So, can we have a moral argument about the weight of linguistic protection as a political good?

    • It’s rather hubristic of me, but I’ll try a quick take on something related, namely to defend the idea of maintaining a distinct national culture in terms that are at least not violently at odds with libertarian principles. Consider the following thought experiment: One day you wake up with the same skills and talents as you did the day before, and the same income and assets. The people you meet speak the same language as you, so you can communicate with them and participate in voluntary mutually beneficial transactions of various sorts. However everything else has changed: The people around you know nothing about the social, political, and cultural traditions you grew up in, their religions are totally different than the ones you know, their dress is strange, their food, though tasty, is totally different from what you’re used to, and so on.

      How would this impact you as an individual? We don’t have to speculate—we have evidence from a long tradition of “literature written in exile”, as well as from the experiences of small-scale societies under pressure from encroaching larger societies. If you’re a typical person this change would probably significantly negatively impact your sense of self and your emotional health and well-being (and in extreme cases might even be fatal). If your situation was the result of someone else’s deliberate actions then you’d arguably be justified in considering that action as a violation of your rights.

      Now some libertarians seem to implicitly prioritize economic well-being over cultural/emotional well-being, so they might disagree. Others might emphasis the positive side of people being able to take advantage of opportunities in this new environment. Yes, most people could at least survive living in this new environment, and some might even thrive afterwards. But the same is true of being punched in the face, and I don’t see libertarians poo-pooing the possibility of that being a rights violation.

      On the other hand progressives are quite capable of recognizing the possible harm inherent in removing someone from their culture, or replacing it with a “foreign” one—that’s part of what motivates concerns
      about colonialism, multiculturalism, cultural appropriation, and the like. However because their focus is so single-mindedly on issues of oppression they see the dominant culture (the “culture of the oppressors”) as simultaneously all-powerful (like your point that English-speaking Americans “couldn’t imagine their language disappearing”) and all-evil, so that its disappearance and replacement would be an unalloyed good.

      Do considerations of national culture always trump considerations of economic well-being? No. Do such considerations rule out social change in the pursuit of correcting injustices? No. But I think they do require us to have (as Sean II noted above) a “sense of proportion”, and not to allow arguments about universal “rights to free movement” and the like to take absolute precedence over local concerns. I think it’s simply a fact that nations can successfully absorb only so much cultural change in a particular time period, and some nations are better at it than others (e.g., the US is better positioned than Europe, and Europe than Japan).

      But even in a relatively open, multicultural, and immigrant-friendly country like the US there are potential cultural changes that I think would have a long-term corrosive effect on the US national culture. I previously mentioned the practice of polygyny, even by white native-born Christians, as being one such change. It’s possible that Canadian-style de facto and de jure bilingualism would be another–again even if it arose indigenously and not as a result of immigration.

      • Jod

        Thanks for that response.
        Yes, I agree with you that there is an important individual good involved and your thought experiment illustrates it well. Of course, the real question is how to balance this good with other principles. I do wish libertarians, and indeed classical liberals of many stripes, would cease treating cultural or linguistic concerns as mere prejudices.

        (By the way, in my country, the cultural change wrought by immigration has been real, but it has largely been positive. It was feared, however, by some folks forty years ago, and it still causes discomfort. I rather think America would be improved by becoming bilingual, but I can understand that this might intimidate unilingual English speakers.)

  • urstoff

    I generally agree with open borders proponents (mostly because I don’t view the world along the civilization-barbarity axis), but I do wish they’d spend more time on simply making immigration (and gaining citizenship) easier. In the US, at least, we’re a long, long way from open borders, and liberalizing immigration would improve the lives of lots of people without running the (somewhat ridiculous) risk of ISIS supporters coming here en masse and setting up a new caliphate.

  • Swami Cat

    Some questions for the crowd:

    1). If Luxembourg declared war on the US, would it be prudent for libertarians to support restrictions on unlimited migration to US from Luxembourg?

    2). If militantly pro-Luxembourgian revolutionary parties started to form in the US during this war, would it be prudent for libertarians to restrict the actions of said parties?

    3). If a large segment (millions strong) of radical Foriegn Mormons declare war on the US, or on non-Mormons globally, would it be prudent for libertarians to encourage unlimited open borders into the US including to said militant Mormons?

    4). Does the fact that the Mormons are not organized into a specific state matter?

    I am pro immigration, but I am decidedly not pro open borders. Of course, it isn’t even a political option. The only real course of action is how much immigration to allow and how to manage the process. I recommend a substantially liberalized, decentralized, non state driven process, where individuals and groups can sponsor immigrants (with responsibilities extended to the sponsor and the immigrant), where the state evaluates individuals for security risks as above (such as weeding out radical Luxembourgians and Mormons), and a process is designed to allow immigrants to earn full citizenship over a period of time.

  • Farstrider

    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 favor forced indoctrination into liberal ideas.”

    You suggest this as a parade of horribles, but it seems common sense to me. Liberalism does require some indoctrination or it will never work. Among the things to be indoctrinated include the rule of law, the bill of rights, equality under the law, representative democracy, secularism, pluralism and so forth. These are core liberal ideas, and we should be very reticent to admit anyone into liberal society who does not adhere to them.

    Now, if you were to respond that we should not assume immigrants are less likely to adhere to these principles, and that excluding all immigrants is wildly overinclusive and perpetuating doing a grave injustice to all the immigrants who want to live in liberal democracies precisely because they want to live in a society with these sorts of institutions, well, then you are correct.

    But don’t be scared of indoctrination. There are right and wrong ways to think about the world, and we should not be shy about indoctrinating the right ways.

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  • Christopher Ritchie

    I do find it deeply fascinating that the people who advocate that taxes for Meat Inspectors is Tyranny so often seem to be very happy with “Papers Please Comrade!” Viable social institutions that have existed for decades or centuries must be abolished in the name of liberty, and yet not the one that might let more of those scary ‘others’ among us.

    I do wonder what conclusions from within the libertarian movement are drawn by people in these discussions. Does this expose to Brennan that a significant portion of libertarians are in this for liberty for the ‘right people’ only? I tend to think most poeple follow politics through a combination of signalling, group identity and what they ultimately think they’ll get out of it. In the united states at least it seems libertarianism has a large section who are just old-fashion reactionaries.

    Which I suppose is a very fancy way of me saying; Yes, of course a huge number of people who support closed borders in libertarian circles who support other measures to suppress liberty if they thought they were necessary and lead to the right outcomes. That modern political libertarianism in the US and the ‘Dark Enlightenment’ folks come from the same source shouldn’t be a surprise.

    • Sean II

      “Which I suppose is a very fancy way of me saying…”

      Everything with you is just a fancy way of saying something else. Your comments in this discussion have little content beyond “Just as I thought, that’s racist!”

      If you’d written the 23rd Psalm, it would have begun: “The supreme being, or if you like prime mover, at least in so far as we are able to conceive such a thing, stands in relation to us as an animal husbandry professional might to a flock of grazing livestock, leaving us with some measure of assurance about the eventual meeting of our most important needs, or at any rate some comfort in the event those needs remain unmet..”

      Try writing plainly. It will force you to come up with substantive arguments.

    • Lacunaria

      So many strawmen. Address war and mutual defense.

  • Adam Minsky

    There are real flesh and blood libertarians who have advocated immigration restrictions (the term closed borders seems to be a bit of a straw man). The most prominent would be the late Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, and Hans Hermann Hoppe. These figures seem to have avoided falling into the pitfalls cited by Brennan. Are the dangers cited in this article perhaps a tad overstated and exaggerated? Or does Brennan have concrete examples of libertarians who have fallen down the slippery slope he describes?

  • David Morris

    I think many libertarians would support restrictions on voting rights, at least in principle if not in most implementations. If a person is voting for aggression , then restricting them from voting is libertarian right ?

    • Adam Minsky

      I was reading Bastiat recently. If I understood him correctly, he was arguing that if the government was restricted to protecting life and property, universal suffrage wouldn’t be much of an issue. Elections only take on great importance when they become a way to determine the distribution of government spoils.
      I saw an interesting interview with Thomas Sowell recently. Sowell suggested that we replace the current sound bite focused debates with individual, hour long, issue intense interviews with the various candidates. When n the interviewer remarked that many people wouldn’t watch such a format, Sowell responded that those folks should be encouraged not to vote.

      • David Morris

        Adam – I’ve thought about that too, but I’m just not sure how to implement it.

        • Adam Minsky

          I’m also clueless about how to implement it. If you figure it out, let me know.

          • David Morris

            You could have judges restrict what democracy can do. But judges are appointed by elected officials. And having a kind of judicial monarchy would also bring problems. So… not sure.

          • Adam Minsky

            There is really nothing wrong in principle with literacy tests for voters. But given the way said tests were misused in the Jim Crow south, they would be a tough sell today. So I guess we are back to square one.

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