Liberty, Libertarianism

Immigration and Property Rights

In Justice at A Distance, Loren Lomasky and I defend a liberal position on immigration. Our proposal is much more permissive than any mainstream position I know. We do recognize, however, the power of the receiving state to scan for criminals and terrorists. In a recent post, Jason Brennan goes even further and rejects our proviso. He argues that closing international borders on the grounds that crime will increase is unjustified because the same position applied to internal migration is clearly wrong. There is no more justification to prevent poor Mexicans from coming to Arizona than there is to prevent poor Californians coming to Arizona, even if in both cases crime will predictably increase. This is a powerful point that forces me to rethink our position and fill some gaps. I do so tentatively, as the argument needs considerable work.

A libertarian theory of immigration should start with private property rights. The territory of the state, I now claim, derives from these property rights in land. Individuals have created a protection agency to which they have delegated limited powers. But owners have not delegated their private property rights beyond the land required by the state to function, so the state lacks the power to exclude foreigners (or anyone else) if owners wish to admit them into their property. Thus, if an owner in Tucson wants to hire a Mexican from Hermosillo to mow her lawn, she is free to do so and the state lacks the power to prevent the entry of the employee. Immigration controls infringe the right to contract, itself an incident of property rights.

However, the state does have the power to prevent the entry of persons who predictably intend to kill, rape. or steal. The individuals who created government have delegated to it the power to protect them, and this includes the power to prevent crimes. Notice that I am not suggesting that people can be arrested preventively, only that they can be stopped from moving to the scene of their planned crimes, from reaching their intended victims. Conceived in this way, Jason’s objection is less powerful, for I would apply the same rationale to domestic migration. If poor folk from inner-city Miami want to move to my Tallahassee neighborhood they can do so by buying or renting land here. But suppose that these persons are members of a gang that predictably plans to murder and assault the neighbors. I do not think they can be arrested for planning crimes, but I think they may (indeed, should)  be stopped from moving to the neighborhood. I think our position comports with the central libertarian vision of allowing immigrants the opportunity and the freedom to participate in the global economy and thus seek a better future for themselves and their families. Open borders protect free, voluntary exchanges. They do not protect predatory behavior.

Seen in this way, the problem is not the principle but its implementation. Defenders of unrestricted borders will say that presently there are no reliable methods to scan for criminals, so any such policy will inevitably violate the rights of those who do not have sinister plans but simply seek a peaceful, better life. This is especially so if the reason to stop immigrants is that crime will statistically increase. Such policy is unjust because it treats groups as presumptively criminal, and so, by failing to individualize, it violates the rights of the innocent. I agree with Jason on this point. But if we could devise a scanning procedure that could identify with sufficient precision the immigrants who intend to commit crimes, I think our proviso stands.

  • Andrew Pearson

    Possible patch for your original claim: the movement of future criminal A from polity X to polity Y will increase crime in Y, but reduce it in X. This represents a harm to Y, so that they may prevent it from occurring. However, their prevention of A’s migration would incur enforcement costs, so there’s a prisoners’ dilemma between X and Y where cooperation=allowing the entry of criminals.

    Thus, where X and Y are separate polities it would be in their mutual interest to have free movement even of criminals, but in the absence of such an arrangement there is no obligation on either to start accepting migrants from the other. Given that California and Arizona already have this free movement, they should keep it, but the US has no obligation to unilaterally accept criminals from Mexico. (Also, we may think this isn’t really a prisoners’ dilemma if the flow of criminals is likely to be largely in one direction).

    I don’t really think I agree with this argument. But given that Jason’s claim is that your original argument proves too much, this seems like a somewhat-plausible account of why immigration restrictions on criminals might be justified.

    • Fernando Teson

      Andrew: Thank you for the excellent comment. It raises a host of unexplored issues. Say group X hires a protective agency, and group Y does the same. Then I think the agencies have a fiduciary obligation to protect their respective clients. But if each individual retains property rights, then they can admit whoever they want to their property. Perhaps individual owners should be careful about who they admit. But even then there are problems. Suppose a private owner of group X sells her property to a criminal gang from Y who then kills and maims X’s neighbors. Is part of the protective agency’s job to prevent this? I frankly don’t know. I need to think more about this.

  • Jameson Graber

    “Defenders of unrestricted borders will say that presently there are no reliable methods to scan for criminals, so any such policy will inevitably violate the rights of those who do not have sinister plans but simply seek a peaceful, better life.”

    I would suggest it’s largely the other way around. For some reason restrictionists are incredibly negative about how well our current scanning procedures are doing. I would be happy continuing to be on our guard for potential terrorist threats, so long as we really opened the borders to everyone who could pass this basic scan. As it is, we are so far from this goal that it’s not even worth making the distinction between your position and Brennan’s.

  • I find this position somewhat strange. Who are these Mexicans who nefariously plan to commit a bunch of terrible crimes, as soon as they move to a foreign country? “Moo hoo hoo ha ha haaaaa – First, I’ll move to Canada; then, I’ll become a common criminal!”

    You could argue that some migrant criminals are terrorists, but then we’re no longer talking about immigration policy, we’re talking about anti-terrorism policy, we’re just using a “build a giant wall” tactic to “solve” terrorism. At that point, the question is aren’t immigration restrictions a rather blunt instrument to use for anti-terrorism?

    • Fernando Teson

      I agree with you that people trying to enter our Southern border are 99% peaceful folk in search of freedom and opportunity. I was thinking more about the situation in Europe, where there seems to be more evidence that some subset of immigrants are not these peaceful types. My point is rather conceptual. IF we could scan for criminals we should stop them. The challenge is to combine this protective power with a liberal immigration policy.

      • My point was that, aside from terrorists, nobody moves to a new place with the intention of committing a crime. In fact, people in general don’t intend to become “killers, rapists, or thieves.” It’s only after a long series of bad events and terrible choices that a person reaches that point, and it’s impossible for the person himself – much less a bureaucrat, theoretical or otherwise – to predict that series of events in advance.

        I suppose you’re looking at this from the viewpoint that there are two kinds of people: good ones, and knaves, and that all we’d have to do in theory is figure out which is which. But in the real world circumstances, as much as (or moreso than) dispositions, determine who becomes a criminal, and you can’t really create an immigration policy that accounts for circumstance.

        • Sean II

          This is right: “people in general don’t intend to become killers, rapists, or thieves.”

          But this is very wrong: “It’s only after a long series of bad events and terrible choices that a person reaches that point…in the real world circumstances, as much as (or moreso than) dispositions, determine who becomes a criminal”.

          That’s the old Officer Krupke story, a classic specimen of post-war social romanticism. But the theory has failed at every test. It predicts rehabilitation programs should work. But they don’t. It predicts economic downturns should cause spikes in crime. But they don’t. It predicts that criminal behavior should peak around mid-life when the strain of circumstances is greatest. But in fact criminal behavior peaks around 17. It predicts that women should turn to crime at rates similar to or indeed even greater than men. But they don’t. It predicts that the people of northern Honshu should have gone double Superdome meets Mad Max in the wake of Fukushima. But they didn’t do anything like that at all. It predicts big effects for shared environment and rock-bottom estimates for heritability. But really it’s the other way around.

          This is another one of those amusing cases where both the leftists (criminals = victim of circumstance) and the rightists (criminals = devils by free choice) were wrong.

          • Situationism is one of the most empirically validated theories in social psychology. I don’t think people are 100% at the mercy of circumstance, but I believe that Philip Zimbardo is correct when he advises us to rule-out situational explanatory factors before resorting to dispositional analysis.

            I agree that the strawman argument you present is ridiculous, and I hope my comment didn’t make it sound as though that’s the kind of thing I believe. The general gist of what I’m driving at is that people in general move to new places without ever intending to become criminals once they’re there. Only after moving and experiencing whatever hand life deals them do those who resort to crime become criminals.

            Teson’s setup is flawed in that he assumes from the get-go that some people are migrating with the intent to commit a crime. The only group that falls into that category is the group called “terrorists.” Immigration restrictions may or may not be effective as a counter-terrorism policy, but that is something that needs to be assessed on its own merits, not peanut-buttered together with the more general concept of immigrant crime. That’s all I was really trying to say.

          • Sean II

            “The general gist of what I’m driving at is that people in general move to new places without ever intending to become criminals once they’re there.”

            Of course they don’t, but unfortunately this absence of criminal intent has very little bearing on actual criminal behavior.

            Also, look closer at Zimbardo’s most famous experiment. It probably proves the opposite of what he intended – i.e. one born douche (excuse me, “genetically predisposed power seeker”) seizes the opportunity to dominate other people, and the rest just awkwardly go along, mostly because they know its fake.

            People always miss that. The John Wayne story actually argues for a personality trait explanation, not a situational one. That’s why we hear about one guy playing the part of John Wayne, instead of 12 doing it.

          • You should read Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect. It sheds a lot of light on this. Every participant in the study received comprehensive psychological examinations. It’s highly unlikely that the world’s leading psychological research institution would have “just missed” the fact that the night guard was a closet malignant narcissist.

            But we also can’t lean too heavily on one person in one experiment. All of the SPE participants, including Zimbardo himself, fell victim to the Situationist factors at play – that’s the main takeaway of the demonstration. (Keep in mind that it was not a research experiment, per se, it was merely designed to demonstrate the existing theory, not to uncover new findings.) The study has been replicated a number of times and there have been countless real-world scenarios that have mirrored its findings.

            There is also a much larger body of Situationist research out there, starting with Milgram and going all the way to the present day. It’s not as if the whole theory rests on a single demonstration.

          • Sean II

            “It’s highly unlikely that the world’s leading psychological research institution would have “just missed” the fact that the night guard was a closet malignant narcissist.”

            Not if their screening process was bullshit. Which it was, and for the most part still is. Here we can learn much from another experiment: the Rosenhan one. Gives a devastating impression of what psychological examinations were worth in the era under discussion.

            But even if they could have solved that problem…there’s a serious base rate issue with the kind of test you’re imagining You know the drill: if only 1 in every 100 people are X, and you have a test that screens for X at 70%/70% (which in personality disorder testing would be a Nobel prize worthy level of accuracy), then given a population of 10,000 you’ll get 70 true positives for X, and 2,970 false positives. Given any individual finding of X, the chances that you’re looking at a real X are worse than 40 to 1.

            Which means that no one would ever have any confidence in the test, but instead merely go through the motions of conducting it. In other words: John Wayne gets through,

          • Okay, I grant that this is possible, and the thought occurred to me that the “John Wayne” character actually was a narcissist as I was reading his interview transcripts.

            Are you building to something, or are you just attempting to weaken the case for Situationism? If the latter, the theories have been empirically validated many times in many different experiments across many different eras and populations even beyond the SPE, so you will need to do a lot of work to make a case against Situationism.

          • Sean II

            No I won’t. That work has already been done in great abundance. All across the spectrum of human behavior, traits have been throwing the smack down on situations, nature has been kicking nurture’s ass, heredity has been making shared environment sell itself for cigarettes in the prison yard, etc.

            That’s why we’re talking about Zimbardo, a guy so old his facial hair actually came creeping – emphasis on the creep – back into style. He’s still the face of that idea, because it hasn’t actually grown much since he popularized it. Trait activation, on the other hand…

            But back to the matter, I don’t know if I’m really building to anything. Should I be? Isn’t there too much “building of cases” on this issue already? Isn’t that part of the problem? People like Ann Coulter can’t admit the truth about Mexican crime being rather low, because she’s building to something. Bryan Caplan can’t admit that Muslim assimilation is failing in Europe, because he’s building to something. And so on.

            How about you and me blaze a trail by being the only two dudes who actually care about whether a given statement is actually true?

          • If your argument is that Situationism is the “nurture” side of a “nature-versus-nurture” debate, then I think it’s safe to say that you haven’t fully understood Situationism. There is no reason why a situation couldn’t trigger genetic impulses.

            Here’s a quick example: You’re walking peacefully in the forest and suddenly you encounter a hungry jaguar coming right at you. You experience a cascade of neurochemicals consistent with a fight-or-flight response and you either attempt to make your last stand or attempt to GTFO of there. Conclusion: situations in which you are faced with emergency existential threats produce fight-or-flight responses in you.

            Situationism merely extends this theory to longer-term environments, such as stressful workplaces, foreign experiences, peer pressure, etc. It may be that the human responses elicited are 100% nature, 100% nurture, or some combination of the two. But the situation is the more relevant determinant, more than the specific cascade of neurochemicals emitted. Feel free to supply any sort of reference or data point in support of a countervailing claim.

            Now on to your suggestion that certain individuals are biologically predisposed to crime. I think this is laughable on its face, since our alleles are unaware of our laws. But I am willing to consider the evidence, if you are capable of supplying it. I am unaware of anyone who has done any work linking genes to specific crimes. Which one is the racketeering gene, for example? But perhaps these claims are true, and if so, you will certainly be able to validate them with robust evidence.

          • Sean II

            If your argument is that “presence of a jaguar” is a “situation” that triggers “scared of big predators”, then I’m afraid there isn’t any bailey left around your situationist motte. To be worth anything, you need to risk something – you know, like saying that the inhabitants of Fukushima would act like the inhabitants of New Orleans given the same situation. Except they don’t. And in real life Mortimer reliably wins the bet.

            About that last paragraph, a confession: I used to make the same argument against heritability of addiction. “How”, I demanded, “could there be a ‘gene for’ amphetamine addiction when that compound wasn’t even invented until the late 1880s?” Identical in form to your crime argument above.

            Unfortunately for me then and you now, its a completely stupid argument. Utterly misunderstands what is being asserted by the hereditarian side. Worse than a straw man, because at least straw men are usually deliberate. I’m embarrassed ever to have made such an argument, and I hope you to escape from your version of it faster than I did from mine.

          • King Goat

            You see, Sean, like the Gnostics, has come across a Truth that the rest of us can’t handle. That’s why anyone would disagree with him on this, they just lack the intellectual courage to see Things the Way They Truly Are.

          • j r

            King Goat has Sean II’s number. The analogy of nature and nurture as rival prison factions belies an understanding of the world in which nature and nurture are somehow at odds or antagonistic towards each other, a view that involves more than a little projection. If the history of scientific knowledge has taught us anything it is that when given the choice between assuming that nature is at odds with itself or accepting that it is our understanding of nature that is at odds with reality, you should probable bet on the latter.

            The relationship between nature and nurture is most certainly one of mutual dependency enforced through constant feedback loops. In other words, human development is a complicated process that involves both nature and nurture interacting in a non-linear relationship. Height, for instance, has a very obvious genetic component, but if you take two people with the exact same genetic makeup and starve one of them in their formative years they will likely end up maxing out at significantly different heights.

            In my experience, anyone trying to sell you on the idea that either nature or nurture is the dominant force in human development is really trying to smuggle in a whole bunch of unproven ideological assumptions.

          • Sean II

            Heritability of height is about .8, maybe even more. It’s not “a relationship of mutual dependency enforced through constant feedback loops”. It’s about .8, or more.

            In other words you picked one of the worst examples you could have, given your underlying motive. You picked the example geneticists use when trying to get through to people who are refusing to understand how distributions work, what twin studies show, etc.

            It’s almost an old joke at this point:

            Sociologist: “Why is John tall?”

            Biologist: “Well, other things equal, about 80% of his height is owed to inheritance, and the rest to a combination of chance & shared environment much favoring the former…”

            Sociologist: “WRONG! John is only tall because no one ever cut his legs off, or starved him as a child, or confined him to a stout box during his growing years, etc.”

          • Feedback loops:

            Enter epigenetics, a process by which the operation of genes is changed, but not the DNA itself. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of the gene, mainly through a process called methylation. In methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. Scientists know that methylation patterns change in response to life in response to life style. Eating certain diets a or being exposed to pollutants, for instance, can change methylation patterns on some genes and affect what proteins they express. Far less has been known about exercise and methylation. So for a study published this month in Epigenetics, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recruited 23 young volunteers for a series of physical and medical physical and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers were asked to cycle with only one leg, leaving the other unexercised. In effect, each person became his or her own control group. Both legs would undergo methylation patterns influenced by one’s entire life, but only the pedalling leg would show changes linked to exercise.The volunteers pedalled one-legged for 45 minutes, four times per week. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests. The exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements.The changes within the muscle cells’ DNA were more intriguing.Using sophisticated genomic analysis, the researchers determined that more than 5,000 sites on the genome of muscle cells from the exercised leg now featured new methylation patterns. Some showed more methyl groups; some fewer. But the changes were significant and not found in the unexercised leg.


          • Sean II

            Epigenetics is the last refuge of the hopeful. But man is it ever getting crowded. A tiny little island of shaky evidence, and everyone is dying to move there.

            Talk about an immigration problem.

          • I know I’ll never convince you, but I’ll take this comment as the best I can hope for.

          • Sean II

            Oh, I wish I was wrong.

            I just don’t wish it as hard as you.

            Certainly not hard enough to ignore the best social science there is: twin studies.

          • You mean just two of them? You’re gonna need a lot more than a pair of studies to overcome the mountain of evidence in the other direction…

          • j r

            I got a twin study for you: North and South Korea. I notice that you ignored my actual example, that two people with the same genetic makeup could end up at significantly different heights owing to negative shocks during adolescence, to male some quip about sociologists. You do understand the difference between a statistical average and an actual distribution of outcomes, right?

            As I alluded to earlier, there is a nonsense culture war going on between folks like Sean II and the folks who Sean II imagines he’s dealing with anytime anyone points out his errors. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a blank slatist. I can very well admit that different genetic qualities exist in different statistical distributions among different population groups. So what?

            Your implication that nature beats nurture is still an incredible oversimplification of how human development works. Your implication that these so-called genetic building blocks lead to people becoming criminals has some truth in it, but grossly ignores the fact that lots of people with those same building blocks, who happen to be lucky enough to be born into more convenient circumstances, never end up going down that route. And your implication that the Japanese never behave like black people in New Orleans is still informed by both a not very informed view of what happened in New Orleans post-Katrina and a willful glossing over of centuries of Japanese history.

            But I get it. This is your shtick. You do it about as well as I’ve ever seen it done.

          • Sean II

            If you move those North Koreans to South Korea, their kids will indeed grow up taller than they did.

            This will happen, but it will also be a one time improvement.

            Every generation after that, the Northern and Southern kids will be the same. In other words, their heights will be heritable to the usual tune of .8, like I said.

          • j r

            Yes, there will be convergence in the population of North Koreans to the extent that there is a convergence of environments. If North Koreans come to South Korea, but live in pockets of poverty that lead to North Korean children having the same level of malnutrition that they had when still in the north, that convergence won’t happen.

          • Sean II

            There won’t be any such pockets. No one in South Korea is as poor as most everyone is in North Korea. Even the homeless in Seoul live as emporers compared to their Northen brothers …and indeed, compared to most humans who lived before 1800.

            Which gets us right to the point: environment mostly matters when it is very bad in absolute terms: starvation, a total absence of some particular nutrient, mercury in your mush, someone cutting your legs off, etc. Once you get away from all that stuff, the effect of environment drops toward zero.

            And relative poverty doesn’t matter at all. Poor kids in America today have a better environment than rich kids had even just 100 years ago. Their environment today can’t tell us much about how they turn out, and we have the twin studies to prove it. The sad fact is we’ve come very close to maxing out the improvements available from a better environment, for rich kids AND poor ones too. Baby Eistein doesn’t work in Westchester, and it doesn’t work in Watts either.

            For almost any thing you measure about first world humans, genes play an larger role, environment an ever smaller one…every step we take away from absolute privation.

          • King Goat

            “Look, I realize this shit is depressing, but I can’t do anything about that.”

            As I said j.r., it all comes back to You Can’t Handle the Truth! Us mere mortals just wilt in the face of the Cthulhuian horror that is the realization that as environmental factors equalize heritability (which is, of course, the variance explained by non-environmental genetic factors) increases, unable to accept such a terrible truth and its awful but (surely!) obvious implications, but Sean has looked into that abyss and summoned the strength and courage to return from Carcosa to tell us about it. The idea that we might have said ‘duh’ to such an awesome revelation and ‘I’m not sure what you’re building on top of that holds’ is of course impossible.

          • j r

            Which gets us right to the point: environment matters most when it is very bad in absolute terms…

            Good point. If only we had any evidence of very bad environmental stressors at work in present-day underclass populations, something like the effects of lead exposure or a link between poverty and PTSD or a record of differential treatment within the juvenile justice system that might significantly alter life outcomes. Obviously, we’ve achieved the highest possible levels of equality of opportunity among all American citizens so any observed differences must be essentially racial in nature. Good on us.

            Like I said Sean II, you do this better than most, so kudos. There is still one fatal flaw in your outlook and it’s like King Goat said, it’s predicated on making anyone who disagrees with you look like they are afraid or unwilling to face up to the truth. That might work if you were talking to a bunch of SJW college kids or dyed in the wool leftists, but you’re not.

            I don’t have any preconceived outcomes. I accept that genetic pre-disposition affects outcomes. And I accept that there are likely meaningful differences in genetic pre-disposition between different population groups. So, if the evidence points to the sort of meaningful racialist differences that you imply, then so be it. Thing is, even accepting the above doesn’t get us to where you assert that it does. We just don’t have that level of understanding of any of this: of what heritability means and how to estimate it, what IQ is and how it affects different aspects of behavior, etc.

          • Sean II

            Now – based on that comment – I’m not sure you understand how things like twin studies and trans-racial adoption studies work. So just to be clear, they work like this:

            Group X shows Trait A at a standard deviation lower than Group Y. J.R. thinks this may have something to do with Stressor B, an environmental factor known or suspected to depress Trait A, and known or suspected to be more prevalent in the places where Group X lives. A reasonable hypothesis, to be sure. But how do we test it? Simple: we look at babies, newborns indeed, who were adopted from Group X parents into Group Y homes, and thus spared exposure to the variable under study. If the adopted X children grow up with a Trait A profile resembling the Y kids, that’s support for J.R.’s theory. But if instead the adopted X children grow up with the same mean for Trait A as the non-adopted X’ers, that’s a blow for J.R.’s theory and it’s time to start looking at other variables.

            Do you realize that, at this point, they’ve tested almost every serious candidate for the big Stressor, and tested it for almost any Trait worth caring about, and the results always come back the same: kids resemble their biological parents, not their adoptive ones. You really should make yourself familiar with this literature, especially if you’re gonna argue about it.

            Same goes for IQ. If you’re still saying “we don’t really know what IQ is” in 2016, you’re not really grappling with this issue. IQ is one of the best measured, best defined things in all social science. It’s stable, it’s robustly predictive for a whole range of important outcomes. A perfectly good instrument, capable of shedding light on many of the most crucial questions in life.

          • King Goat

            I’ve certainly seen twin studies involving twins raised in different socioeconomic environments, but I can’t say I’ve seen any involving significant amounts of at least one twin being, say, a dirt poor black child in inner city America. I’m not saying such studies don’t exist, but I doubt they do because I can’t see researchers getting any kind of meaningful access to those kids for their measurements.

          • King Goat

            Being convinced was not on the table at the start, for Sean it seems to be about signaling, about how he’s so awesome because he Can Handle The Truth and everyone else can’t or won’t. Notice you’ve brought up all kinds of specific research and counterexamples and his response is ‘man, you just can’t handle the truth, sigh, I was once like that…’

          • King Goat

            “Heritability of height is about .8, maybe even more. It’s not “a relationship of mutual dependency enforced through constant feedback loops”. It’s about .8, or more.

            In other words you picked one of the worst examples you could have, given your underlying motive.”

            Did he?


          • Sean, come on man. There is a reason my argument against genetic predisposition to crime makes more sense than your argument against amphetamine addiction. Amphetamines are chemicals that do something physical to the human brain. Laws aren’t.

            Unless, of course, you’d like to argue that laws create certain social conditions that people respond to in predictable ways, in which case: Congratulations, you’re a Situationist. Welcome aboard.

            Regarding the jaguar: If you were to say that “Ryan and his ilk always crap their pants in the presence of jaguars, unlike people like me and my kin, who always maintain our composure,” you’d be making a Dispositional statement. We could test that statement empirically and see how it compares to the Situationist assertion that the specific context of exposure to jaguars is what matters most (e.g. seeing one at the zoo will not trigger the response, seeing one in the jungle will).

            You don’t have to disagree with Situationism to cling to your racialist views. I think you’d be wrong to cling to those views, but they need not be affected by the veracity of Situationism.

          • Sean II

            There’s nothing wrong with the amphetamine example, but I’ll gladly discard it just because you asked.

            The main point is this: the fact that genes can’t learn specific laws is not an answer to any argument about heritability of crime. Here’s why:

            Crime is something people do when, on average, they’re not very smart (can’t foresee consequences), not very future oriented (don’t care about even the consequences they can foresee), not very empathetic (don’t care about consequences that happen to other people), and not very good at controlling passing impulses (can’t do the above even when they want to).

            Those are the building blocks of crime, and they are all heritable to one extent or another. It doesn’t matter that no gene has ever read the RICO statute.

          • I can think of lots of reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to foresee consequences, and low intelligence is only one of them.

            Likewise, I can think of multiple reasons why someone wouldn’t be future oriented. Situations are one of them – ask any sleep deprivation expert or acquaint yourself with some of Philip Zimbardo’s other research:

            I can think of a few reasons why someone would lack empathy, and unfortunately you’re engaging in one of them right now: dehumanization. (People with such-and-such DNA are not like me.)

            And you mentioned another situation-specific reason why people would have low impulse control: drug abuse.

            In short, even if these things are “heritable to one extent or another” they do not often produce identical outcomes in any given population, and moreover there are other non-genetic causes of these same behaviors that can elicit similar responses in every population, and this has been empirically demonstrated repeatedly.

            So if you’re trying to make an airtight case for heritability of crime, I’m afraid you haven’t controlled for enough variables to have convinced me.

          • Sean II

            Drug abuse is probably an effect of low impulse control, not a cause of it. Hence the phenomenon of aging out. That wouldn’t happen if it was the other way around. And I should know: I was a drug abuser. Nothing “other” about it for me.

          • Sean II

            Something in that comment bothered me enough to be worth circling back after two days. It’s this part: “…dehumanization. (People with such-and-such DNA are not like me.)”

            There’s no reason why “we’re different” must lead to dehumanization. It has in the past, of course. We know that. Remember though: people have managed to dehumanize each other over large differences, small differences, and no differences at all. But there’s no reason why acknowledgment of differences must lead to dehumanization. Even if the truth turns out to be “we’re different, and we’re staying different because of DNA”…even then, dehumanization is not a necessary consequence.

            Think about the range of physical endowment between, say, Danny Devito and LeBron James. Does anyone hesitate to think of them both as human? Of course not. What about the intellectual difference between notorious moron David Beckham and noted genius Michael Huemer? Both still human, right? Of course yes.

            See what I’m saying? It’s well within our imagination to say “these differences exist, but they exist within the span of what is human”.

            Now…you know what certainly will lead to conflict? A world where we punish people for noticing that Danny and LeBron are different. Or a world where we make it a moral and social obligation to pretend that Beckham is just as smart as Huemer. How can those rules end in anything other than perpetual conflict? Conflict…and indeed dehumanization, as the group that insists on pretending clashes endlessly with the other group that insists on noticing, until each sees the other as crazy, stupid, evil, inhuman.

          • You teed this one up for me.

            First of all, yes, anti-Italianism often fixates on height, and I’m sure Danny DeVito himself could tell you about that.

            Second of all, nearly every form of racism I’ve ever seen suggests that The Other is comparatively unintelligent. Have you ever seen a bigot say, “We have to stop the clever Mexicans from coming in and out-smarting us!”? “Stupid” people are absolutely marginalized and dehumanized, and it is despicable.

            Third of all, even if neither of these things were true, The statement, “Of course, of course, you’re not saying other races are less human, you’re just saying they’re categorically less law-abiding,” falls pretty flat for me.

          • Sean II

            “Second of all, nearly every form of racism I’ve ever seen suggests that The Other is comparatively unintelligent.”

            Dead wrong. Racism against Jews, ethnic Chinese in southern Asia, Japanese immigrants to South America (and North for that matter), Armenians, subcontinental Asians in East Africa, etc. has typically been based on a resentful claim that those groups are too clever for the liking of the local peasants.

            Indeed, hatred of the smart is a potent force on its own. Only the more so when some visible ethnic division is added to the mix.

          • I can cite propaganda in all the cases you mention that suggest that the feared race is greedy, but I have not seen examples in which they are depicted as intelligent. Can you supply examples?

          • Sean II

            “…the Jew makes use of all weapons that are in keeping with the whole complex of his character. Therefore in domestic politics within the individual nations he fights first for equal rights and later for superior rights. The characteristics of cunning, intelligence, astuteness, knavery, dissimulation, and so on, rooted in the character of his Folkdom, serve him as weapons thereto…”

            That was Hitler of course. Old school anti-semites may not have used the word intelligence as he did, but still they said things like “crafty”, “clever tricks”, etc. which obviously contained an assumption of intelligence.

            Interestingly, Hitler did describe one group of people as hopelessly stupid: his own masses. Not “the other”.

            But if one racist tyrant isn’t enough, take Idi Amin. His campaign against Asian expats used much the same language as European anti-semitism, with many of the same dysphemisms for smart: “conniving”, “cleverly plotting”, etc.

            (On a personal note: damn you for making me go get that Hitler quote. When Goat shows up for his morning patrol, he’s gonna wet himself with delight. He’s gonna read two or three lines, and start immediately banging out a response based on the idea that “Sean quoted Hitler! Sean quoted Hitler!” By the time he notices that I fetched that quote is response to your request for evidence, it’ll be too late for him to back down. He’ll have to construct an argument that says I drew the paragraph from memory, because of my hidden true feelings, Bulver, Bulver, blah, blah, blah.)

          • Thanks. I admit it: You’re correct that racism can come in the form of dehumanizing the other for being more intelligent as well as less.

            Still, your argument was that the inferior races commit more crimes because they are less intelligent:

            Crime is something people do when, on average, they’re not very smart (can’t foresee consequences), not very future oriented (don’t care about even the consequences they can foresee), not very empathetic (don’t care about consequences that happen to other people), and not very good at controlling passing impulses (can’t do the above even when they want to).

            So your argument is that these people are perfectly human, but genetically unintelligent, impulsive, and apathetic toward the consequences of their actions. But totally human, and not “other-ish” at all.

            I want to believe you, but it’s hard. What you are saying literally fits the textbook definition of dehumanization.

          • Sean II

            I understand, completely. There’d probably be something wrong with you if you didn’t react that way.

            Being on guard against things that appear to build toward “and these guys over here aren’t really people”, that’s a good thing to be on guard against. One of the best things, in fact.

            But while I can’t speak for anyone else, and certainly not for a multitude of creeps who might, on the surface, seem to agree with me…my story does not lead to that. “Statistically less intelligent” doesn’t mean “unintelligent”. My people, the Irish, are statistically less intelligent that people in the rest of Europe, and far less so than people in East Asia. But that still doesn’t get you to “the Irish are unintelligent”. And it certainly doesn’t get you to “all Irish are less intelligent than all Finns” or whatever.

            One thing that always troubles me (and may trouble you as well) is that it’s hard to think statistically when you KNOW there is an army of innumerate morons out there who can’t or won’t understand such subtleties. So the fear is that if you admit to them “the Irish have a lower IQ mean than the Finns”, there’s a serious risk that they’ll take this information and run with it in stupid directions, up to and including running toward the notion that “Irish aren’t people”.

            That thought troubles me quite a bit, but I resolve the dilemma this way: most people already notice the big differences, so there’s really no hiding them (see: the literature on stereotype accuracy). Which means our best choice is probably to go deeper into the crevasse, and try to build a culture where people can say “On average As are more X than Bs, but some Bs are more X than most As, and many A’s aren’t very X at all, and for any given A or B, they won’t be that far apart in point of X-ness.”

          • Here’s my problem with that:

            One of the things I do professionally is carve people into groups and observe differences among them. Over the years, I’ve done this enough time to have noticed something important: Every time you divide a population into sub-groups based on a particular item of interest (say, customer age), you end up discovering that this item of interest is offset almost completely by some other factor (say, income). So while one might be tempted to say, “Our best customers are between the ages of X and Y,” we quickly discover that this is just a proxy for “Our best customers are people with incomes between W and Z,” which we later discover is just a proxy for “Our best customers are people who give us more money,” which of course is a scientifically useless finding.

            Don’t get me wrong, this kind of statistical noodling can yield successful marketing schemes, but that’s all it is, marketing. People in Mississippi aren’t bad customers because they’re young, nor because they’re poor, and certainly not because they’re black. They’re bad customers because they don’t give us money. That’s it.

            Now you take human populations in which merely crossing an imaginary line magically turns you from a white Georgian to a South Asian Turk, from a South Asian Egyptian to a black Sudanese, from a South Asian Bengali to an East Asian Bhutani, from an Anglo to a Saxon, from a Saharan African to a Sub-Saharan African, from a Hatfield to a McCoy, and so on, and what you end up with is a lot of statistic nonsense.

            To be sure, you can bifurcate the data any way you want to, and you will observe univariate differences between the sub-populations, but it is not meaningful information, it is an artifact of set theory.

          • Sean II

            From what I’ve seen of management consultants, you could totally get away with passing this off as an insight: “Our best customers are people who give us more money,”

            About that second to last paragraph, though: check out 23 and Me. Things like “South Asian Bengali” are not in fact arbitrary categories. Taken as ancestry groups, they are quite well defined…and to a truly amazing degree they are measurable. You can take a vial of blood and intentionally mislabel it – “this is Pasty Joe from Ontario” – and the report will come back like “97.5 South Asian – 1.3 British European – .7 Mongolian – .5 non-specific East Asian”.

            That’s why it’s not nonsense, and why it’s getting less nonsensical and less artifactual with each passing year.

          • I don’t doubt you can detect differences between someone from Kokata and someone from Napanee. What I doubt is that you can detect differences between someone from Darjeeling and Jogmai, Jogmai and Dharan, Dharan and Gaighat, … and …, … and Ajax, Ajax and Napanee. It’s the paradox of the heap all over again.

            But more importantly: The differences you will measure with that blood test will correspond to disparate levels of melatonin etc., not civil code violations.

          • Sean II

            No. Those tests do not track melanin or any other specific thing.

            They track DNA, the meta-thing that every heritable thing tracks.

          • “The differences you will measure with that blood test will correspond to…”

          • Sean II

            “Will correspond to…”

            Anything heritable.

            If crime is heritable, it can be thus tracked.

            If not, not.

          • King Goat

            I tried to make this point in a similar discussion once before. Sean’s argument (worldview?) is essentially based on the idea that if you take any given group they will 1. have a mean rate of trait X and 2. that that is significantly heritable. That in itself is really not that controversial (though what that means and what conclusions it supports is something that is), but one thing it overlooks, perhaps in application more than theory, is that most groups that people talk about excluding have subset after subset which has an entirely different rate and any individual migrant will be a huge crosstabs of groups. So for example, while the rate of negative traits for ‘Muslims’ might be high relative to, say, Hindus, the rate for ‘Alawite Muslims’ is going to be quite low. However, the rate for ‘Alawite male Muslims’ is likely higher than for ‘Sunni female Muslim.’ You can go down a host of these subsets for any potential migrant who may seem like a risk or not depending on which subsets you choose to focus on (I’ve often asked Sean why shouldn’t he be for strongly discriminatory targeting men, since the difference between the mean crime rates of men and women dwarfs the differences between racial, ethnic and religious groups he focuses on). It seems this being the case, and then taking into account that even if a group has higher mean rates of negative traits it’s still likely that the large majority of individuals in that group do not, and that these ‘false positives’ turned away would mean costs (in terms of them likely being productive, contributing members of society), it seems to me why don’t we just individualize decisions on migrants in the first place?

          • King Goat

            “dehumanizing the other for being more intelligent as well as less.”

            I’m not sure this should be conceded, ‘clever’ and ‘cunning’ do not necessarily denote ‘intelligent’ in the context of racists, but more like ‘tricksy’ and ‘sneaky.’ The Nazis often held the idea that Jews had a ‘superficial’ cleverness and cunningness while at the same time making no ‘real’ contributions. We see this when racists talk about Asians sometimes, saying that while they appear intelligent in many areas they’re really ‘only good at copying’ other culture’s inventions, excel at rote learning but aren’t ‘creative,’ etc.,

      • EPGAH

        If they were 99% peaceful folk, wouldn’t Mexico be a 99% peaceful country?

        Look at how the other person treats their own house/country before you decide whether to let them in or not.
        As it is, there are a lot more peaceful countries we could let people in from.

        In Europe, it’s even worse, the ones they’re letting in are the Moslem Cult, with a 1400-year history of violence. You can’t invite the Devil in and expect him to play nice!

        And ALL of this overlooks the question, “Why do we NEED more people, with unemployment as high as it is?”
        Do you have a good answer for that?

        • j r

          In Europe, it’s even worse, the ones they’re letting in are the Moslem Cult, with a 1400-year history of violence.

          Right, as opposed to Europe’s last 1400 years of peace and… Never mind. What’s the point?

          As idiotic as this comment is, though, I applaud the honesty. It is refreshing when people come out and make their racialist arguments explicit.

          • EPGAH

            Actually, for the past 70 years, Europe’s been peaceful.

            The Moslem Cult countries have never been peaceful.

            The Europeans respect each others’ borders, and worked together to put down Germany when Germany stopped respecting others’ borders. Have any of the Moslem Cult worked to put down other Moslems when they’re not respecting other countries’ borders?

            Like the Palestinian terrorists? Or the rapefugees?

            The other Moslem Cult countries REFUSE to take in the rapefugees. Why is that? Wouldn’t they be more comfortable among fellow Moslem terrorists?
            Saudi Arabia has insultingly offered to help build Mosques in countries the rapefugees invade, but that’s not stopping the invaders, that’s helping the invaders change the host country.

            Some would say that’s the plan.

            What racialist arguments?
            The Moslem Cult is a CULT, not a RACE.
            It’s a political ideology, no less odious (And no less violently expansionist) than the Nazis, but somehow gaining acceptance–and even defenders–because they CALL themselves a “religion”.
            Their actions, not their looks, are the problem here. If they looked exactly as they do now, but behaved according to their hosts’ rules, they would not be a problem.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            “Actually, for the past 70 years, Europe’s been peaceful.”
            Right–except for the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the wars and genocide in the former Yugoslavia, the Russian war in Chechnya, and the Russian invasions of Georgia and the Ukraine.
            And also except for the wars with one foot in Europe and one foot elsewhere, e.g., the Franco-Algerian war, the Portugese colonial wars, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Naturally, when a European power fights a war in Asia or Africa, it becomes an Asian or African war, not a European one. Hence Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia was an African affair–likewise Rommel in north Africa. And whatever happened in Rhodesia, well, it stayed in Rhodesia, with nothing to do with Europe.
            I guess there were a couple of nationalist or leftist terrorist campaigns here and there in Europe–ETA, the Red Brigades, etc. And well, the Communist states’ campaigns of repression–Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. But other than that, Europe has been a bastion of peace and civility for the last 70 years, interrupted only by the depredations of Muslim refugees (and, of course, ignoring the modest handful of Muslims that were killed by the Serbs, etc.)

          • EPGAH

            Wow, so the IRA are a WORLDWIDE terrorist organization, on par with ISIS? I thought it was a local “trouble”, hence the downplaying nickname!

            Yes, Communist RUSSIA has stirred up trouble, setting fires for America to put out. Now the Bum is funding ISIS, a fire for Russia to put out.
            Is that a bookends?
            I don’t consider Russia to be PART of Europe, otherwise we wouldn’t have a NATO protecting Europe FROM them, right?

            As to the Moslems killed by the Serbs, the country was trying to drive the terrorists out of their country. Do you not think they have the right to do that? How do you explain Burma’s purge of terrorists, and their crime and violence in the streets mysteriously dropping? If you don’t think those are related, then what other factor that I missed led to that?

            Italy wanted to expand its territory into Ethiopia. The Civilized World stopped it. It was not an African affair, the savages could not have stopped it. Maybe that’s why he did it? He just wanted 1 in the Wins Column?

            Have the savages stopped other savages from taking territory from the Civilized World?

            Rhodesia was a country built by England overthrown by savages. Where’s the pushback from other savages taking out Mugabe and giving the Brits back their country? Hasn’t happened yet?

            Why should France have not held onto Algeria? They built it, don’t they get to keep it? More telling, once the savages took it over and ruined it, how many of the savages stayed in the Hell of their own making…and how many invaded France! Do you think France had an “obligation” to let them in? They didn’t like being under French Rule, so why come to France?

            What about the chopping up farmers, raping their wives, boiling babies alive in South Africa when the savages took over THAT country? Did ANYTHING bad happen to those savages?

            What about the mass sex-assaults on the idiots who took the savages in, from Canada to Cologne? The Civilized World countries have had a tepid response for fear of being “Islamophobic”, but the savages haven’t so much as apologized much less done anything in the way of punishment to their fellow savages for it!

          • Irfan Khawaja

            “Help, help, the big bad mean savage swarthy man just kicked the shit out of my incautious statement! TIME FOR CAPS! Time for exclamation points! Time for rhetorical questions that leave his counter-examples untouched? Time for red herrings, backtrackings, tacit concessions, and general hysteria! Mercifully, I have a pseudonym to protect me.”

          • EPGAH

            You didn’t kick the shit out of me, you didn’t touch any of my points. I use caps because this primitive word processor doesn’t have Bold or Italics.

            I did not backtrack at all. Russia is not part of Europe.
            Europe is trying to enforce peace on the world. Except when we don’t because “racism”, right? You know, like NOT stopping the savages from overthrowing Rhodesia, South Africa, Algeria…
            Then taking the savages in when their “successful” overthrow of our countries…results in places even THEY don’t want to stay?
            Something like shooting your parents then showing up at your grandparents’ door, claiming you’re an “orphan”. Yes, a self-made “orphan”…With no guarantee you won’t shoot your grandparents too!

            You claimed that IRA are terrorists, that there is “genocide” in Yugoslavia, etc.
            IRA are terrorists, but they have died down now, and they were never as big nor as worldwide a threat as IRA. So that was a red herring on your part. Or at least a distortion?

          • EPGAH

            I was pointing out the savagery in the last hundred years of the savages overthrowing our countries in Africa.

            What countries have been overthrown in Europe in the last hundred years?

          • EPGAH

            And don’t forget, America bombed the Serbs to stop them from ejecting the terrorists, now they have to put up with terrorists raping their women, because the terrorists are clearly Sacred Cows.

            America also helped Afghanistan stop the Russian invasion–and pretended to be blindsided when the treacherous savages were treacherous and turned on US after the Russians were dealt with!

            How does it benefit anyone for savages to make their betters’ countries worse, rather than either obey their betters’ laws, suffer the punishment–or LEAVE?

            Why are you white-knighting for the terrorists, anyways? You clearly like having electricity, computer, and Internet, which is a product of European interference in other countries, right? Or was yours dropped off by fairies, or some other causality-breaker?

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Mine was dropped off by fairies. I’m brown knighting for terrorists because I am, in fact, a terrorist myself. Naturally, both things prove that Europe has been peaceful for the last 70 years.

          • EPGAH

            Well, if we weren’t peaceful, it would be very hard to invent anything from the bottom of a pool of our own blood.

            Right now, I’m writing this on a phone that has more computing power than NORAD. How could this have been invented if people of the Civilized World were constantly massacring each other?

            Let’s go for Proof By Contradiction: If Europe isn’t peaceful, then why are terrorists seeking refuge in Europe instead of their fellow terrorist countries? Isn’t that just a transference from skillet to slightly fancier frying pan? AND do you ignore that if Europe isn’t peaceful, it’s because the terrorists are bringing it with them?

          • Sean II

            Speaking of bands, I think you’ve hit on two promising names: 1) The Brown Knights of Terror & 2) Culture Fairy.

            I can see either of those on a bill, say…opening up for Mike Miligan and the Kitchen Brothers.

          • EPGAH

            And remember, the Crusades were not Christian/European violence, they were Christian/European RESPONSE to Moslem invaders’ violence.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            And if you’re ever tempted to forget, just remember what really ought to be easy enough to remember–that Jerusalem is located squarely in the middle of Europe.

          • Sean II


            I’m glad you’ve lifted your BHL embargo. I thought your point was well made – thread deletion & unacknowledged editing of comments are worth a little protest. But welcome back, now you are.

            Also I think you’re right about AC/DC. At this point the only thing shaking all night long is a Parkinsonian tremor.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            I haven’t really lifted my embargo. It isn’t even my embargo, strictly speaking. It was Matt Zwolinski who invited me to leave town, a request I’ve tried to honor.
            At Zwolinski’s “invitation,” my policy is not to comment here, but there are times when what’s said is so fucking stupid that I weaken in my resolve and end up commenting, esp if the chances of deletion are relatively small. (Say what you want about him, but so far, Teson has never played Brennan-like games with the BHL combox. And though predictions are hard to come by here, I don’t think Brennan will jump in to interfere in a combox conversation in a case where the OP criticizes his views.)
            But these particular comments are a lapse from my policy, not an abrogation of the policy. When provoked, some people throw stones or stab people; I end up commenting at BHL. One should, if possible, strive to avoid such unfortunate ethical lapses, but shit happens.
            Re AC/DC: I think you’re distorting the spirit of my AC/DC post. Evidently, AC/DC, like Syrian refugees, are (is?) an easy target for cheap criticisms. Yes, I think AC/DC should retire, but I saw them this past August at Met Life Stadium, and they absolutely kicked ass. Their live show is still competitive (to say the least) with that of much younger bands, like Metallica, and though I’m a big Metallica fan, I’d rather see AC/DC than Metallica, or Megadeth, or Slayer (though I’ll freely grant that M & M & S > AC/DC).
            Now imagine Muhammad Ali getting in the ring with, say, Mike Tyson, and you’ll see what your overly clever comment gets wrong. If I had biceps like Brian Johnson, I wouldn’t be as confirmedly single as I am. And yet Johnson is 20+ years older than me. A cautionary tale.

          • Sean II

            Oh no, it was clear your AC/DC post was presented in the spirit of true fandom. If I made it sound otherwise, shame on me.

            About those biceps…its curious how few rock frontmen had any to speak. Most seemed to be on the thin and brittle side of the body type spectrum. Always left you with the impression the AC/DC could beat their way to the top of rock and roll.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            ” Most seemed to be on the thin and brittle side of the body type spectrum.”

            Dude, enough with the stereotypes! If you’re not stereotyping ethnicities, you’re stereotyping rockers. Counterexamples: James Hetfield, Dave Grohl, Lemmy (when alive), Axl Rose, Sully Erna, Bruce Dickinson, Zakk Wylde…Hell, I’d stay away from Courtney Love, come to that. Problem with Brian Johnson is, he’s built, but I’ve seen him close up–he’s shorter than a South Asian academic.
            I’m done here, by the way.

          • Sean II

            Take care.

          • EPGAH

            No, Jerusalem is NOT “squarely in the middle of Europe” but it became Europe’s problem when the terrorists took over the Holy Site of not one, but TWO major religions. That means they were spoiling for a fight. Even the Rebels of America’s Civil War had the good sense (Some might call it obvious) NOT to claim Washington DC as THEIR capital too, right?

            Again, who else BUT Europe would’ve cleared the terrorists out, if the Europeans had decided it was none of their business?

            We would gladly leave the Moslems or anyone else alone–and stop calling them terrorists in the bargain–if they would stop making their problems our problems.

            When you think the Civilized World should “Mind Its Own Business”, please remember part of that is PROTECTING your business.

            The Moslem Cult started as bandits–for “economic survival” of course!


    • Sean II

      1) Mexicans aren’t much to worry about when it comes to crime.

      2) Mexicans have very little to do with the debate about OPEN borders.

      • I only mentioned Mexicans because Teson did. Had Teson used Greeks or Frenchmen in his hypothetical, I would have used them in my comment instead.

        • Sean II

          Okay, but perhaps you’ll acknowledge that both sides of this debate have a Mexican problem.

          For border control people, the problem is one of constantly overstating the trouble caused by Mexican immigrants, most especially crime.

          For open border people, the problem is constantly slinging a cheap fallacy to the effect of “if I can disprove claim X about Mexicans, that means I’ve disproved X for immigrants of all possible groups”.

          Both are wrong.

          • Where I live, most of the immigration restrictionists complain about Mexicans. To the extent that someone directly addresses and refutes restrictionists claims about Mexicans in my area, that person is absolutely on point.

            But I will acknowledge that matters may be different where you live.

          • Sean II

            I thought you sounded Minnesotan.

  • David Morris

    I am a a little confused by this line: “ut owners have not delegated their private property rights beyond the
    land required by the state to function, so the state lacks the power to
    exclude foreigners (or anyone else) if owners wish to admit them into
    their property” – It really seems to a kind of Hoppe argument that immigrants can only come in when they are invited by US citizens.

    • Fernando Teson

      David: I address the general justification of territory elsewhere (article linked), and I couldn’t compress it properly in the post, my fault. My position is that the territory of the state consists of (1) privately owned land, plus (2) land delegated to the state to fulfill appropriate state functions, such as court buildings, roads, etc. So my argument is not Hoppe’s. Immigrants can come in freely when invited by private owners (US citizens or not), can buy or rent land, and can use the roads, etc., This is because the terms of the delegation do not authorize the state to exclude them from public roads, since the immigrants need to get to where they want to go to sell and buy goods and services.

  • Fernando:

    I’d like to raise a few objections (or potential objections, depending on the case):

    Individuals have created a protection agency to which they have delegated limited powers.

    Is that a history claim?

    If so, it seems to me that in most if not all cases/countries, there was no such delegation. Rather, some people created a government structure, without asking the rest, and/or in spite of opposition from many others. Also, present-day people were almost always born in a country where there is/was already a government structure that regulates immigration.

    But owners have not delegated their private property rights beyond the land required by the state to function, so the state lacks the power to exclude foreigners (or anyone else) if owners wish to admit them into their property.

    I don’t see good evidence that owners delegated such power. Owners were already born where the powers existed, except in some past cases. But even then, many owners did not agree with the delegation. But assuming they did delegate, why do you think they didn’t delegate also the right to regulate that?

    Thus, if an owner in Tucson wants to hire a Mexican from Hermosillo to mow her lawn, she is free to do so and the state lacks the power to prevent the entry of the employee. Immigration controls infringe the right to contract, itself an incident of property rights.

    But in order to reach the property of the person in Tucson, the Mexican has to go through land not owned by the owner in Tucson (and/or airspace, etc.). Does the state not have the power to regulate who goes through those areas? (i.e., areas that are not private property).

    However, the state does have the power to prevent the entry of persons who predictably intend to kill, rape. or steal. The individuals who created government have delegated to it the power to protect them, and this includes the power to prevent crimes.

    I see a few potential difficulties here (apart from the question of delegation), such as:

    1. That would not seem to apply to people who predictably do not intend to do so, even if they have done so in the past elsewhere (e.g., former dictators who have been retired for a while, and just want to be left alone with the millions they stole; former thieves still enjoying what they stole decades after the fact (like Ronnie Biggs)), etc.

    2. That would not seem to apply to those who predictably intend to take part in criminal activity in other countries, while comfortably living in the country to which they go, for their safety and/or that of their family (e.g., a drug lord from country B moving to A, or at least having his family move to A, with millions of looted dollars).

    3. What if they don’t intend to illegally kill, rape or steal, but instead they intend to change the law (by means of voting, when they reach enough numbers), in a way that would make it much more oppressive for the present population than it currently is? (or they don’t actually intend to do it because they’re not really thinking about it, but they’re likely to do it in the future).
    Example: migrants who support Sharia Law (and are predictably willing to vote for similar restrictions), and/or support a imprisonment for abortion and/or for same-sex relations, decriminalization of spousal rape, etc. (such views are common in several places).

    Open borders protect free, voluntary exchanges. They do not protect predatory behavior.

    Related to point 3. above, there is the issue of restrictions of freedom that predictably would result from immigration of large number of people from certain regions (see point 3. above), as well as migration from places were some types of predatory behavior is far more frequent than it is in the recipient country. Even if the government of the recipient country cannot predict that a single individual will engage in rape, theft or murder, they can predict that the rates of rape, theft or murder will substantially increase if they accept large numbers of migrants from places in which such behaviors are much more frequent than in the recipient country. Would the delegation of power (assuming there was one) cover that?

    • Fernando Teson

      Angra: Thank you for these very good comments. I will answer in full later, but I will say that the delegation point is not a historical claim. It is a justificatory claim, a la Nozick.. This means that the state’s powers are only those that can be justified by Lockean social contract of sorts. On the issue of predictability: no answer can be completely satisfying because people’s behavior can be predicted only on the basis of the available evidence, which includes their past behavior. Finally: the parties to the social contract have delegated to the state the power and the land to build roads, etc. These roads cannot be denied to peaceful immigrants, because otherwise they would not be able to trade goods and services with the natives. In other words: peaceful immigrants cannot be permissibly stopped at the borders.

      • Fernando:

        On the issue of delegation, given that there was no actual delegation, it’s not clear to me in which way delegation can justify (i.e., it actually didn’t happen), but assuming it can justify, it seems to me one might alternatively said that the power to regulate immigration was also delegated, and that acts as a justification. Given that it’s not a historical claim, I don’t see how the justification of delegation can be blocked, in any case (or how to test the theory).

        In particular, you mention that “the parties to the social contract have delegated to the state the power and the land to build roads, etc”, but that didn’t actually happen, so one can say that the parties to the social contract have also delegated to the state the power to regulate immigration. Why would that not be true, if it’s not a historical claim?

        Moreover, preventing peaceful immigrants from certain countries from using those roads, etc., still would not prevent many other people from doing so, and in particular it would generally not prevent people from those countries from trading in many cases with people in the non-recipient country. For example, China, Germany or Japan (and actually all countries, to different degrees) clearly restrict immigration, but their inhabitants trade with people in most other countries – even people who wouldn’t be allowed to migrate to China, Germany, Japan, etc.

        In re: predictability, the behavior of an individual can be predicted on the basis of that individual’s past behavior, but also, and to some extent: based on the behavior of other people. For example, if one takes a random Egyptian (i.e., the only available info is that he or she is Egyptian), one can tell she will very likely worship Allah, and even likely support Sharia Law, based on polls and other data from Egype (e.g., )

        That aside, the behavior of people – without individuating them – can also be predicted on the basis of past behaviors that happened within group.
        For example, one can predict that in today’s primaries, more people will vote for Trump than for Kasich, that in the rest of the year, Russia will make far more fighter jets than Brazil, that the murder rate and kidnapping rate will be far higher in El Salvador than it will be in Uruguay, and that both the number and the percentage of people supporting the implementation of Sharia Law will be far higher in Egypt or Pakistan than it will be in Japan, etc.

        So, in particular, even if one cannot predict whether an individual will commit murder, support implementation of Sharia Law, etc. (one can, of course, narrow that down, considering support for different policies, like banning same-sex relations, executing apostates, etc.), one may properly predict an increase in support in Japan for executing apostates or punishing men who have sex with men if there is mass immigration from Egypt or Pakistan to Japan, and similarly increased support for banning abortion if there is mass immigration from Brazil to the US (e.g., (in Spanish), ), and so on.

  • Adam Minsky

    I will be the first to admit my intellect isn’t as powerful as many of the writers and contributors to this blog. That said, I have a hard time reconciling unrestricted mass immigration with the notion of voluntary exchange. Both parties typically feel better after a voluntary exchange has been conducted. This is clearly not the case with current immigration policies.
    At a certain level it is admirable that libertarians are principled enough to support open borders, despite the fact that open borders doesn’t bode well for an anti-statist future. This certainly distinguishes you from much of the Left, who demographic changes as a means to implement their preferred political vision. I do ,however, think that libertarians of the bleeding heart variety should at least think hard about the immigrations views put forth by Hoppe, Rockwell, and the late Rothbard. Support of open borders seems like a slow motion suicide pact for folks with minimal statist aspirations.

    • Sean II

      It’s a suicide pact alright, but who said anything about slow motion?

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    Just because we are forced to accept criminals from a nearby state does not mean we are thus forced to accept more from Serbia. That is not a
    “powerful argument” it is a silly one.

    • Sean II

      Yes, and so is the Brennan argument: “If you’re not willing to deport Camden New Jersey, you can’t refuse to import Port-au-Prince.”

      For one thing, “deport” and “refuse to import” are not actually the same thing. The former requires maximum coercion, but the letter requires very little, really almost none if you merely advertise the policy well.

      • King Goat

        “the Brennan argument: “If you’re not willing to deport Camden New Jersey, you can’t refuse to import Port-au-Prince.””

        Hmm, is that right? I seem to remember that his (at least recently) argument was about stopping people from on area of the US (Anacostia comes to mind) from going into another because the residents of the former place have some undesirable trait, X, which is on average more common among the people there. So in both instances stopping movement.

        • EPGAH

          One is forcing X out, the other is merely saying X can’t come in.

          The former is CAUSING movement, not stopping it.

          Getting something harmful–a splinter, say?–out of your body, is a lot harder than not taking it in in the first place.
          Or we could use chemical poison as the example:
          NOT drinking it in the first place is a lot easier than a stomach pump to get it out!

          • King Goat

            Er, you may want to re-read what I wrote there…

          • EPGAH

            You said “both instances stopping movement”.

            Deportation is CAUSING movement–forcible ejection, in fact!
            That takes a lot more effort than STOPPING movement.
            Just as throwing up something poisonous takes a lot more effort (And is arguably more harmful to the body) than just not ingesting it in the first place.

          • King Goat

            You’re explaining Sean’s characterization of Brennan’s argument, but the point of my comment was that I don’t think that characterization was correct.

          • EPGAH

            In both instances, it is a group of individuals not acting for the good of some abstract “society”, but what is good for them. If you let a criminal into your area, or let it stay, your risk of losing life or property goes up, so why not act to protect YOURSELF, even if you don’t care about others losing life or property?
            Think of it as each individual trying to keep the danger away from him/herself, a power currently only afforded to the ultra-rich.
            Should a dangerous individual’s ability to do what he want trump the safety of people who don’t want that dangerous individual?

          • King Goat

            The short answer is: crime is a cost, but illiberalism is a cost as well. Reductions in liberal ideals are usually sold as gains in ‘order,’ I’m not denying that it can work out that way, just that it’s a good bargain.

          • EPGAH

            I consider crime the greater cost. Libertarianism is sold as you and ONLY you have dominion over your property, crime is the direct opposite.

            Letting criminals in/stay is giving up dominion.

            As to Liberal ideals, Classical Liberalism (I HOPE that’s the one you meant) holds that Government’s first duty is to protect from internal cheats&thieves. Some call it police.
            The second duty is to protect against foreign thieves. Some call it military.I don’t see the duty to let outsiders in as any part of it.

          • EPGAH

            How does it benefit anyone to allow Dresden to turn into Damascus or London into Port-Au-Prince?

  • Josh Smift

    > However, the state does have the power to prevent the entry of persons who predictably intend to kill, rape. or steal. The individuals who created government have delegated to it the power to protect them, and this includes the power to prevent crimes. Notice that I am not suggesting that people can be arrested preventively, only that they can be stopped from moving to the scene of their planned crimes, from reaching their intended victims.

    I’m not so sure about “predictably”. Predictions have an accuracy; how accurate do the predictions need to be? I don’t think the state (or anyone) can predict with 100% accuracy what someone intends to do, so how accurate does the state have to get in order to exercise this power?

    The one exception I can think of is if the person *expresses* their intention, which is why pulling out a knife and saying “give me your money or I’ll stab you” gives the state grounds to stop you, while carrying a knife in your pocket doesn’t, even if the state thinks you couldn’t possibly be carrying that knife around for any purposes other than mugging people.

  • Sean II

    “…such policy will inevitably violate the rights of those who do not have sinister plans but simply seek a peaceful, better life. This is especially so if the reason to stop immigrants is that crime will statistically increase. Such policy is unjust because it treats groups as presumptively criminal, and so, by failing to individualize, it violates the rights of the innocent.”

    Fernando, you’re more reasonable than most on this issue, but THAT is truly a terrible argument. One of the worst arguments going, in fact. Here’s why:

    1) Statistical increases in crime produce more victims.

    2) Crime victims are individuals who suffer violation of their rights, even though they were merely seeking a peaceful, better life.

    3) Therefore, either policy – border restrictions, no border restrictions in cases where crime will predictably increase – ends with individuals suffering violation of their rights.

    Now, the answer better not be: “yeah, but I’m a libertarian so I only notice or care about rights violations caused by the state”. Rights violations are rights violations, especially from the point of view of the individual who suffers them.

    • King Goat

      It’s almost as if “Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality” and not efficient crime control.

      • EPGAH

        I thought it depended on the liberty and equality of YOUR group, not everyone.

        Something like having a family barbecue and everyone else in the neighborhood decides to help themselves to your food, and you say “NO” and eject the gatecrashers?

        Classical Liberalism, 2 of the 3 points of “Government” are to protect the group from rights violations.
        If you go by a STRICT Libertarianism, then the person who suffers the violation has to stop them himself, and that includes violence, right?
        Something like, “You have the RIGHT to rob me, and I have the RIGHT to shoot you for it!”?

  • If it’s ok to prevent people from joining your club, HOA or gate community, then we must explain the difference. That comes down to asking if the State is legitimate as delegate of citizens.
    But in the context of debating State policy (ie. assuming legitimacy of such an organization) the blanket argument against collective policies such as closed borders is conceded.

    When it comes to a free society, no one knows what sizes of associations will emerge or what policies would be adopted. But I would venture there is at least a third option to opening or restricting the borders on some uniform rule.
    Consider citizens vouching for people to immigrate. Such referrals could also come with responsibilities (you must pay for damages caused or paying for their welfare). This would provide some private parties incentives to scrutinize individual applicants.