Jacob Hornberger has replied to my recent post on the topic of borders and immigration. In this post, he offers that I am wrong. Well, I will be the judge of that…
Libertarianism is a consistent philosophy, one that does not embrace positions that contradict each other.
I don’t like going off on a tangent to start a post, but I must. This is an interesting statement to make given how much time some very well qualified libertarian theorists spend debating both theory and application – on some subjects coming to conclusions that are exactly the opposite one from the other.
It may be a consistent philosophy, but it should be obvious that humans – imperfect, such as we are – haven’t found that total consistency yet on several subjects, so we really haven’t proven this to be true. Now it might be so that through continued debate and dialogue, the thus-far elusive “truth” will be found. Or it might be so that libertarian theory cannot be so perfect in a world of social, imperfect humans (this is my bet).
While those might be true, it certainly is true that there are disagreements today between and amongst well-meaning and well-versed libertarian theorists on many issues. So, someone tell Walter Block that his 500 published articles were unnecessary – libertarian theory and application is already settled and consistent. Walter just doesn’t know it yet.
In any case, I have stated several times that I do not burden libertarian theory with such an impossible standard. I don’t expect more from it that what it is – the non-aggression principle. I don’t expect it to define “aggression” or “property.” I don’t expect that it will offer the single answer to these concepts and their application for every libertarian everywhere in the world.
God – yes, that God – has given man his Word: the Bible and His Son. This “philosophy” has been studied by countless thousands of scholars for two thousand years. Guess what? Even this perfectly whole philosophy has not been sorted out by man – we have today, what, maybe 20,000 sects of Christianity? (I am only guessing at the number. Take a look at this page. You do the counting.)
But somehow libertarian theory – after basically 50 years (I start counting a whole theory from Rothbard) has already achieved what God has not been able to achieve after 2,000 years. Hornberger has a rather high opinion of man – even if you don’t like my “God” example, show me one philosophical / social theory with more than one follower where all who claim to be adherents agree on all aspects – both theoretical and in application. I won’t wait here for your answer; I will move on.
Interestingly enough, Bionic does not disagree with the major point of my article — that there is only one position on immigration within libertarianism and that’s open borders.
[bionic writes:] If all we need to do is agree on the theory, we can stop here.
Yes, I wrote that. And merely opening or ignoring the border has nothing to do with the very next step in Hornberger’s hypothetical: an individual is doing the inviting. Nowhere in this reply does Hornberger deal with my main criticism of his view: he describes a hypothetical which I broke down into two implicit steps and four explicit steps. Merely opening the borders – getting government out of being involved in deciding who crosses the border – does nothing to implement Hornberger’s four explicit steps and one additional implicit step. The steps that he says describe libertarian open borders theory.
Nothing. And Hornberger ignores this. He did not say that nobody invited Miguel; he said Pete invited Miguel. There is more to “open borders” in libertarian theory than merely opening the border – on this I agree with Hornberger completely (or at least I agree with his hypothetical. It is clear to me that Hornberger does not agree with his hypothetical when it comes to practice; see below). Some individual does the inviting; in practice, Hornberger misses this rather important element.
Look, Hornberger is the one who said it in his hypothetical – if you open borders advocates don’t like it, take it up with him; it is his hypothetical, not mine.
(As an aside, Bionic’s claim that state borders are inconsistent with libertarian theory is incorrect. I think what he meant to say was that state borders are inconsistent with libertarian anarchist theory. Borders are entirely consistent with libertarian minarchist theory — i.e., libertarian limited-government theory, and open borders are an essential aspect of liberty under limited government).
Jacob, I have enough trouble doing my own thinking for me; please leave my thinking to me (and that guy on my shoulder, Pepe).
I meant to say no such thing. I meant to say what I said. It is impossible to derive “limited-government theory” from the non-aggression principle (go ahead and try, Jacob; you will waste a lifetime and then we won’t have to deal with this open borders stuff). “Libertarian limited-government” is an oxymoron: “we don’t believe in initiating aggression except when we believe in initiating aggression.” There is no way to conclude from libertarian theory that initiating aggression is OK in just a few areas. There may be other reasons to conclude “limited government,” but not based on libertarian theory.
So, what is Bionic’s beef with my article? It amounts to a variation of an argument that Milton Friedman made many years ago about the welfare state.
My “beef” is much more than this, and I wrote it in my response – but you would never know this from reading Hornberger. My beef is that it will lead to an irresistible push for more government, not less. Less generally-accepted common culture = more government.
Gramsci knew this. Cultural Marxists know this. Left-libertarians ignore (or pretend to ignore) this. Hornberger either doesn’t know this or he knows this. At this point, I am beginning to question his view on this matter – maybe he isn’t ignorant on the matter; maybe he understands this issue very well.
Anyway, I wrote all of this in my post, but you would never know this from reading Hornberger’s reply.
Interestingly, however, Bionic also wants to make it clear that he is not a libertarian proponent of government-controlled borders.
Then what is he? It’s either one or the other. You’re either a proponent of open borders or you’re not. If you oppose open borders, then you automatically favor government-controlled borders.
Why is it one or the other based solely on libertarian theory? Is it required that libertarian theory offers an unequivocal answer to every question ever raised by man? Is it required that libertarian theory is the only pure theory in a world of imperfect man? Is it certain that libertarian theory can turn a state action – drawing a line on a map – into a libertarian concept? Just what does Hornberger expect of libertarian theory?
I will help with the answers: it isn’t. No. Rothbard was good; he wasn’t that good. That’s a good one, a real knee-slapper. The impossible.
Oh sure, it might well result in higher taxes as a result of expanded welfare.
Twelve times, in some form or fashion, Hornberger suggests higher taxes are OK – relative to other libertarian principles – not very libertarian. I will suggest two things: first, his “other principles” are contrary to libertarian theory – his “other principles” being the supposed “right” to immigrate (this is a positive right; sorry, positive rights can’t be squeezed out of the NAP), and second, from libertarian theory one cannot always deduce the relative value of one violation from another very easily: sure, murder vs. stealing a candy bar is an easy one, but…in all cases?
Instead he is, in fact, advancing the call for a violation of the NAP in order to support a positive right for an immigrant. This is impossible to square within libertarian theory, however it is great left-lib stuff (or just call it left stuff; this is more precise).
Anyway, higher taxes as a violation might be the least of my concerns in this matter.
…but it does seem to me to be a bit unsavory for American libertarians (as well as American statists) to ignore the fact that it is the U.S. national-security state’s death machine and its 25 years of foreign interventionism in the Middle East that is a direct cause of why all those people are going to die…
Is “unsavory” a violation of the non-aggression principle? Never mind.
This may be the most un-libertarian statement in Hornberger’s entire post (although it is a good leftist statement). He is attributing the actions of one set of individuals to another set of individuals. He is saying all are guilty for the actions of others.
I did not authorize those wars; I did not vote for those who did; I did not execute immoral orders; I did not send millions to their deaths.
There are specific individuals who took specific actions that created the conditions of hell on earth for millions of people.
However, since Hornberger is the oxymoronish libertarian limited-government theorist, I suggest this guilt is his, not mine. I take that back: I don’t just suggest it – I pin the tail on that donkey.
Should the United States have a policy of open borders that would enable those hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children from the Middle East to freely come to the United States without fear of being forcibly repatriated to the lands where they are doomed to die?
The answer is: Yes, absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever!
Wait a minute. Where is Pete? Did he do any inviting, or is this creature known as the United States doing the inviting? I don’t get it, Jacob – what happened to your hypothetical? You can’t even get past the first explicit step! Is it libertarian for the United States to do the inviting?
Hornberger doesn’t like that the state manages the borders but calls on the state to do the inviting. “Government action for me but not for thee.” This is Hornberger’s limited government philosophy.
Anyway, this position could certainly be derived from many philosophies – some morally acceptable and some not so favorable to liberty. This position cannot be derived from libertarian theory. People have a right to leave; no one has a right to enter.
A right to enter is a positive right. Remember Hornberger’s first explicit step in his hypothetical (someone should; he doesn’t): Miguel was invited by the property owner Pete. Miguel had no right to walk in without the invitation. He certainly didn’t enter Pete’s property at the invitation of the United States! Hornberger keeps ignoring this point from my reply. I take that back – he keeps ignoring this point from his own hypothetical.
Let’s remind ourselves of what the founding principles of America were with respect to immigration: Our American ancestors sent the following message to the entire world: “If you are suffering tyranny, oppression, or starvation, our government will not send military forces to save you or help you, but if you are willing and able to escape and come to America, we promise that you will never be forcibly repatriated to your homeland to face death, suffering, or tyranny.”
What does this have to do with libertarian theory? In case you are confused about the answer, I will tell you: nothing.
Consider the system of open borders that the EU adopted many years ago under the Schengen treaties. Opponents predicted all sorts of dire consequences. Borders would disappear, they said. There would be chaos. Everyone would move to France (or some other country). People from one country would steal jobs from people in other countries. The culture of each country would be polluted or disappear.
None of those dire predictions came true.
Wait a minute! I was the one who introduced the Schengen treaties into the discussion – Europe’s new “open borders” policy is now threatening the ease of travel between European countries for Europeans! Does Hornberger address my point? You know the answer by now.
In any case, I will address his point: is it possible that Europeans – despite differences from country to country and even region to region within countries – shared enough of a common culture (well, maybe besides Greece) to make this work reasonably well? Maybe?
Is it possible a Schengen-type agreement could work reasonably well between Canada and the United States but less well between the United States and Mexico? You think? It has nothing to do with “better” – like one culture is “better” than the other. It has to do with different.
Imagine if 20th-century America had the system of open borders that 19th-century Americans had. That would have meant that in the 1930s all Jews living in Germany would have been free to come to America.
Such a sentiment can certainly be derived from many philosophies, but not from libertarian theory.
But since Bionic is so concerned about big government, what about the enforcement measures that come with immigration controls, which libertarian proponents of government-controlled borders never mention or talk about?
Hornberger does not seem so concerned about the additional big government that will result from his position. He is not concerned with all of the additional government that is the reality in Europe now as compared to the time prior to this flood of immigration. He most certainly is not concerned with higher taxes (actually, he kind of likes these; maybe he will pay mine).
He is not concerned with all of the additional new government that will come with his program, and only is concerned about the government we already have. I am reminded of what I wrote in the previous post:
Advocates who say “let’s just open the borders and deal with a completely voluntary system later” are no better than most economists and all politicians: they fail to comprehend (or willingly close their eyes to or secretly hope for) the second and third order effects in the process that has been unleashed – call it the seen and the unseen.
Chanting “NAP, NAP, NAP” does not qualify one to advance to Libertarianism graduate studies.
I will suggest, once again: is it possible that there is no libertarian answer available in a world with state borders? I know my answer.
Bionic makes a slight reference to cultural changes that immigrants bring to a country, which implies that his objection to open borders is rooted in more than just his welfare-state argument. He forgets that America’s heritage is one of freedom and diversity of cultures.
My objection was rooted in many things much more than a “welfare-state argument” before I even got to culture, which was almost a throwaway in the subject post. Hornberger ignores the fact that merely opening the border does nothing to suggest that someone has to do the inviting – he ignores the “Pete is inviting” part with virtually every statement in his post.
Entering without an invitation is called…what, exactly? Might it be the initiation of aggression? And what do we do with those who initiate aggression? (Don’t answer that; I don’t like violence at this blog.) That’s how Miguel would have been dealt with by Pete.
In any case, on the point of diversity of culture: much of that “America’s heritage” form of immigration was a result of natural processes. Which I state in my conclusion. Which I praise in my conclusion. But you wouldn’t know that from reading Hornberger’s piece.
His, and mine.
Bionic and I obviously agree that there is only one libertarian position with respect to immigration, and that that position is open borders.
My position is that merely opening the borders does not fulfill Hornberger’s hypothetical. He does not address this issue even once in this response; instead he ignores it, as if he never said it. Perhaps he doesn’t even understand his own hypothetical.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the fact that some libertarian advocates a particular position doesn’t automatically make it a libertarian position.
I agree. This is easily the wisest thing Hornberger has written on this entire topic.