Thursday, December 7, 2017

Borders and Property

I thank Jacob Hornberger for making my case regarding borders and property – and, therefore, immigration.

Wedding Cakes Have Nothing to Do With Free Speech.  In this piece, Hornberger makes an exemplary argument – perfectly libertarian – on this issue of baking wedding cakes for gay couples, etc.  It isn’t a free speech issue – which is how most people argue it; it is a private property issue.

The fact is that the wedding cake controversy has nothing to do with free speech. Instead, the issue is all about private property and the right to discriminate.

Exactly.  Now, some background…

My Case Regarding Borders

I am 100% certain that the issue of borders and immigration in a world of state borders cannot be answered solely via the non-aggression principle.

One has a right to exit; one does not have a right to enter.  This is consistent with a private property order.  In a pure private property order, every border would be closed – or, more precisely, managed.  It would be managed by the property owner.

I am not saying yes or no; I am not agreeing or disagreeing with one side or the other; I certainly do not agree with many of the methods deployed by the state.  I only state that there is no answer to be derived solely from the NAP in a world of state borders.

I will explain…again.  For the anarchists out there: from the non-aggression principle completely applied, one cannot derive a state.  Therefore, what can the non-aggression principle suggest about state borders?  I suggest…nothing.

Walter Block (who favors open borders) says as much.  While he states, rightly, that on topics such as drug use, slavery, etc., the state need only do one thing – that is, eliminate the law that makes illegal such activities that by themselves are not violations of the NAP – regarding borders, the state must do two things.  From Walter:

What I’m trying to do is to apply the libertarian theory I learned at Murray’s knee to immigration, and my conclusion is that the proper answer is full private property rights and open immigration. Both.

To which I replied:

…to achieve a libertarian condition regarding borders and immigration requires two actions – according to your own construct: removing the NAP-violating law AND privatizing all property.  One action without the other does not achieve a libertarian condition – as you say.

Walter concludes:

I think your point about me needing two things, while in legalizing drugs, ending slavery, we only need one thing, is very important. You are a very formidable debating partner.

And there you have it.  The non-aggression principle, fully applied and on its own, cannot answer the question in a world of state borders – a world in which private property is not fully recognized.  (I await a further reply from him that deals directly on this point.) 

Now, to the minarchists: minarchism allows for the government to provide proper defense from invasion.  How on earth can this be done properly without having some idea of who is passing through the border and for what purpose?  Any consistent minarchist theory (I know; an oxymoron) cannot be extended to the idea of open borders.

Again, I am not saying right or wrong; I am just saying that the theory cannot answer the question.

So, Back to Hornberger

Let’s start with a simple example: the owner of a home. I think everyone would agree that he has the right to decide who comes into his home. He’s the owner, after all. That’s part of what private ownership is all about — the right to exclude others from coming onto his property.

So far, at least, the government has not trampled down this right (well, other than government agents having virtually free access).  But, from a libertarian standpoint, Hornberger is 100% correct.  This is the non-aggression principle, perfectly applied.

Suppose the homeowner throws a party in which he excludes blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people. All of his 100 invited guests are rich white Americans.

And this is the extension of the principle. 

Under principles of private property and liberty, the homeowner has the right to discriminate. If the state were to force him to invite blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people to his party, there is no way that he could be considered to be a free person. Freedom necessarily entails the right of the homeowner to discriminate on any grounds he wants when it comes to who enters onto his property.

So…let’s take the next step: what if my neighbor and I throw a party, and we agree to exclude “blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people”?  Have we violated the NAP, or are we completely consistent with the NAP? 

What if we get together and throw a block party – 100 homes in the neighborhood – and we decide to exclude “blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people”?  NAP violation: yes or no?  A thousand homes?  Is it possible that there is no violation if I take this action individually, with my home, but there is now a violation if my neighbors and I agree to similar conditions?

The answer should be obvious, but I will make this one easy: no violation of the NAP; perfectly consistent with the NAP; derived directly from the NAP.  It is illogical to suggest that what one individual has a right to do under the NAP becomes a violation if he and his neighbors jointly agree to do the same.


The non-aggression principle, fully extended, allows for managed borders of property.  Property implies discrimination by the property owner; in the case of his property borders, this means the visitor has a right to exit, but not a right to enter.  The property owner may exclude anyone from his property for any reason.

When it comes to “borders,” the state has made the private property owner impotent in terms of gathering with his neighbors and agreeing to this completely libertarian principle.  The state removes from me my property rights.  The only means I have by which to exercise these rights is via the state – and this is the single argument against state-managed borders, that it is the state acting as the agent.

Is the property owner’s impotence on this topic where the non-aggression principle leads?  Is the property owner’s impotence on this topic the non-aggression principle fully applied?  I hope not – impotence when it comes to property rights would kind of be the death of the non-aggression principle as a meaningful principle.  But then I don’t look for the NAP to answer all questions on all topics; so I am not burdened by such questions.

The entire weight of libertarian principle comes down on the side of managed borders; this butts up against the state doing the managing (as if there is a different reality possible in a world of state borders).

I conclude: one cannot derive the answer of borders and immigration from the non-aggression principle in a world of state borders.  Full private property rights come up against the state as the only lawful manager – how is the NAP supposed to square that circle? 

Thanks, Jacob!


  1. Hornberger is quite a character. A minarchist that believes in open borders.

    I can think of another instance of open borders that brought untold suffering to people, and is currently in the news. I am talking about Israel.

    Israel is the perfect argument against open borders. Like the West today, the Palestinian mandate had its borders opened against the wishes of a majority of its population. A minority of the population wanted the new Jewish migrants (most of those welcoming the new migrants were Jews themselves), so somehow from the perspective of someone like Hornberger these Jewish migrants were "invited" and were not violating the NAP.

    Yet right from the start of this Zionist project the migrating Jews were quite open about their intention to displace the local Palestinian Arab population. One thing is substantially different to the migrations into the West today, and the Jewish migration into Palestine. That is that the Jews paid their own way, and there was no welfare state to provide support. So on these terms it appears that the Jewish migrants are not violating the NAP, while almost all migrants going to the West are violating the NAP (Hornberger supports that anyway. Somehow welfare payments to our own poor are evil, while welfare payments to foreign parasites are a moral necessity).

    Ultimately the Jewish migrants were able to take over the entire territory of present day Israel, even though Jews owned only a negligible share of the total land area. Any time a migrating group gains enough numbers and power, they will seize power the moment that they have the opportunity no matter what bits of paper say who owns what, just like what happened in Israel.

    Hornberger supports ethnic conflicts in Europe, because they are inevitable when considering the policies that he advocates. Hornberger is an unserious thinker that refuses to answer direct questions, as we have seen here previously.

    1. Someone sent me a tidbit of Hornberger's reply - I have not read his full reply and will not read it precisely for the reason in your last sentence.

      But even in this tidbit - it is typical Hornberger - he just makes stuff up about what I have written - call it a lie or whatever.

      It is pathetic.

    2. Just read his reply and am worried that I now have AIDS.

      His own character issues aside, there is one point above all that stands above the rest. Nowhere will Hornberger ever address the consequences of MASS IMMIGRATION. It’s always these small scale examples of José wanting to come work on Johns farm or whatever.

      It is objectively true that if the Mexican flood is not stopped America will be a one party state ruled by the Democrat party. Do I need to spell out what that would mean?

      One more point is worth restating, since I am sure I have said this and probably others have to in regards to the continued train wreck that is Hornburglar, but if we don’t have full control of our property and the ability to form covenant communities to immunize ourselves to the presence of these foreigners as well as the consequences of their participation in American “democracy” then he is advocating for TYRANNY.

      Hornburglar is a criminal.

  2. Hornberger is a complete shill and a walking argument against democracy. Although I agree completely with libertarians on one key issue (the USG is a hostile and oppressive power) I have always been shocked by the political naïveté of the NAP, something people like Hornberger take full advantage of.

    The NAP is a theoretical law/social order. It does not exist in the real world. If you want it to exist in the real world you need POWER, yet libertarians never talk realistically about how to get there and in the case of Hornberger it’s clear he doesn’t actually want to get there. He wants to extend these theoretical rights equally to everyone in the world and takes the position that infinity immigration of racial/cultural aliens is the only moral position. That civilizational suicide is the only moral position. But let’s put morality aside. If you were serious about trying to implement the cherished NAP in the real world would you take the positron that the entire population of Mexico is welcome to live in the United States? It doesn’t require much effort to find out how mestizos vote (hint: its not for libertarian free market capitalism). Can Hornberger even explain why it is the Democrat party pushes for open borders? Will he argue they are crypto libertarians?

    Furthermore, these rights he wants to hand out to the entire world are not reciprocated. He doesn’t shill for immigration into Mexico or Africa, he shills for immigration into the US and Europe.

    This is child politics. Grown ups and people who aren’t tools of the oligarchs have actual moral responsibilities. You have a responsibility to your children to make sure they grow up in safe environment not surrounded by racial strangers who abuse them. You have a moral duty to your ancestors to continue your bloodline and uphold the honor of your civilization. You have a moral duty to your people to ensure that, after your own children, they can also live in peace unmolested and not starving in the streets. You do not have a moral duty to José and Muhammad to ensure that they can live in your lands. You certainly do not have a moral duty to uphold fake principles created by Jewish economists in the 1960s.

    If libertarians insist on sticking to the NAP as the ultima ratio in the affairs of man then they need to demand from people making NAP based arguments for X whether or not this is going to help actually create an NAP order, because otherwise it’s just being used as a kind of kabbalistic voodoo magic to justify the Open Society of George Soros.

    1. Well, we believers in the NAP are admittedly in a self-inflicted pickle simply based on it. Since we don't use force, we can't force anyone to listen to us, much less obey us. However, hopefully by our speaking about it a few people will at least ratchet down rather than ratchet up the use of aggression. It took a long time to tear down the "divine right of kings". Maybe we can tear up (up, meaning toward the better) the idea of a force-based social contract.

    2. Regarding your last paragraph, as you know this topic of proper and a common cultural soil if one wants to realize and maintain something approaching the NAP is one where my thinking has completely transformed. Our dialogue has been one of the reasons.

    3. That some egalibertarians make poor arguments about the NAP should not diminish the validity of the principle. As Hoppe states, the NAP based on private property is the only rule which can eliminate conflict in theory. If it is the best in theory, that means it is our best shot in practice in a world of flawed humans.

      What egalibertarians fail to realize is that in the context of the state, every policy position is a gamble. Sometimes adhering to the NAP in some areas, while it is not allowed in others, is a net loss in the fight for a freer future. For instance, not many, or any, of these egalibertarians advocate for police to stop arresting rapists and murderers because the police are funded by organized aggression.

      Murray Rothbard was pure class, and if you can't recognize that, you're blind. Its all about ideals, not race, though often, I will admit, that race can be a reliable empirical indicator of the content of one's political ideals.

    4. >As Hoppe states, the NAP based on private property is the only rule which can eliminate conflict in theory. If it is the best in theory, that means it is our best shot in practice in a world of flawed humans.

      A King could also eliminate most conflict better than NAP since who would be the final arbirter- especially in cases affecting not just two individuals but the society as a whole? The other main difference is Kings have actually existed.

      The supposed “validity” of the principle says nothing about its political viability. It is not the best shot at anything if you can’t actually create it.

      As for people applying it in different ways to get the results they like.... well that’s main problem. You could probabaly make an NAP case for not stopping your 14 year old daughter from “dating” Muhammad. The whole thing is goofy if for no other reason than it’s not reciprocated. It’s not reciprocated by the actual State and it’s not reciprocated by other individuals, especially totally foreign peoples. It is therefore meaningless until you can actualize something like it in a society of your own making.

      >Rothbard was pure class
      I like Rothbard more than I probably should, but that being said “pure class” is not how I would describe him. He had a tendency to take his borderline autistic application of the NAP to some truly disgusting places. The most obvious of which is the position he takes on children in the Ethics of Liberty. Reminder that property is not and cannot be the basis for morality.

      >Ideals not race
      Why not both?

    5. Texas: "If it is the best in theory, that means it is our best shot in practice in a world of flawed humans."

      Recognizing that humans have flaws is a rather important step in understanding the proper application of a social / legal theory.

      Many wonderful theories fail when put into practice; further, expecting more from the NAP than what it is - a principle about the proper use of aggression - is to burden it unduly.

      I believe the NAP to be wonderful in its simplicity, however I do not expect it to provide answers to every question.

      Inherently, it cannot answer every question - it cannot on its own define rather important terms: aggression, punishment, property, etc.

  3. Hoppe seems to argue this:

    Abolish immigration control at the national border level aggressively deployed by government beginning in the 1960s. At the same time bring back
    immigration control at the local border level i.e. in at the level of urban districts and neighborhoods abolished by government in the 1960s.

    Eliminating national border controls allows labor to go where needed and people to go where they want. Reactivating neighborhood border control by the mechanism of private property deed restrictions and covenants accomplishes DIRECTLY what immigration control at the national border fails to, that is it preserves the peace, stability, and property values of racially and ethnically homogeneous communities.

    This has been the way of the world up until the emergence of socialism and the invention of what Foucault termed bio-politics. Under bio-politics it the concept of ‘population’ emerged as an object to be controlled by central planning committees. By contrast in say the Roman Empire once a territory was absorbed into the Empire people were free to travel throughout it regardless their race or ethnicity. The city of Rome itself had its many ‘quarters’ for the many different ethnic groups living in the city.

    1. He does not “seem to;” that is his argument.

      When I heard him say this in his PFS talk this year, I first thought of BM and then I said to myself, “if anyone is going to come up with the solution to this problem, it’s going to be Hoppe. I don’t think he’s all the way there, but this might be very close.”

  4. “The non-aggression principle ("NAP") applies to and presupposes the concept of property.”

    Hence my argument in the above.

    “I infer from your writings that you exclude the possibility of a consensual state…”

    Yes. Because if it is consensual I would not describe the entity as a state.

    “…the state cannot be an agent, as the establishment of an agency relationship must by definition be voluntary, and the state's fundamental relation with its victims is involuntary.”

    I agree. But in a world with state borders we are stripped of an alternative. Impotence regarding my property is, of course, an option. But impotence when it comes to my property kind of screws up your very first sentence when it comes to the NAP.

    “In a "pure private property order," no one would have a "right to exit," as exiting would entail entry into the property of another and require permission of the owner.”

    Of course they have a right to exit. It is obvious that to exit, one must have permission to enter whatever is adjacent. I did not think even this had to be spelled out.

    “Where a state territorial boundary separates private property, e.g., along the Arizona "border," the state has no reasonable basis for substituting its will for those of the property owners.”

    Have I written otherwise? Please point me as to where.

  5. Everything people want and need is provisioned on the market by the private corporation. Cars, iPhones, Cheerios, whatever, all come to us by the interaction of a thousand transnational corporations. Governments and nation states are nothing more than belligerent pests, dangerous nuisances which interfere in such trade and loot the wealth created by it.

    As well consider the economic destruction only wrought by national border control. Economist Bryan Caplan estimates the collective wealth of the world would DOUBLE if national borders were dismantled thereby allowing the industrious to go wherever their abilities are best rewarded. As well there is this to consider. If there were NO national borders people would quickly leave the more oppressive regimes in favor of the less repressive ones causing the more oppressive regimes to collapse,the sooner they could be re-inhabited as government free zones realizing Jeffersons great dream of places where one can live with his fellows in a state of freedom, civility and repose.

    1. Via your first paragraph and also citing Bryan Caplan, it seems that you imply we should consider goods crossing borders and humans crossing borders as one and the same. I would agree if we ignore one element: humans act. Some guy named Mises wrote a book along these lines, I think.

      “As well consider the economic destruction only wrought by national border control.”

      Yes, I consider it. I will ask you to consider: material increase may not be the highest value for many humans; they may value other things more. Are libertarians to suggest that humans such as these are wrong?

      “Economist Bryan Caplan estimates the collective wealth of the world would DOUBLE if national borders were dismantled…”

      Citing Bryan Caplan won’t help your case. He is further left than the United Nations on this subject of immigration, and by “left,” I mean in creating a positive right:

      “As well there is this to consider. If there were NO national borders…”

      Ancap, please tell me you are not a dolt like Hornberger in creating strawmen or fabrications about what I have written. I appreciate many of your contributions here, but if this is true it will taint my view. Maybe I am not properly interpreting your point.

      I have never written in favor of national borders as they are defined today. I have written along the lines of contractual or covenantal communities, HOAs, etc. And these borders would be both perfectly libertarian and definitely *not* open in the Jacob Hornberger sense.

      “…people would quickly leave the more oppressive regimes in favor of the less repressive ones causing the more oppressive regimes to collapse…”

      You assume that the people leaving those regimes want to live in a less oppressive regime. That may be true for some, even many. But there will also be many who want to come to the less oppressive regime that is populated by the naïve (call this the west if you like) in order to oppress it – whether purposefully or not.

      “…the sooner they could be re-inhabited as government free zones realizing Jefferson’s great dream of places where one can live with his fellows in a state of freedom, civility and repose.”

      I don’t even know what to do with this. In your construct, only those seeking freedom and peace will immigrate to less oppressive regimes, leaving the evil regime perpetrators behind. Somehow, this region – inhabited only by the evil ones who did not immigrate into the less oppressive parts of the world will allow the region to be turned into “a state of freedom, civility and repose.”


    2. What I had in mind was the hundreds of small city states that existed in medieval Europe. If one such city state tried to put tax rates up a lot, it was an easy matter to move to a nearby competitive city state where rates were better.
      And btw one sees a similar phenomenon underway in the US. States which have imposed 'smart growth' land restrictions have seen median housing prices increase to 4 or 5 times median incomes. States which do not have smart growth restrictions have median housing prices at only 2 times median income. Migration has been out of smart growth states like NJ and NY and into states free from land restrictions like Texas and Georgia.

      Now I think it would be difficult to make the argument that people leaving Jersey for Georgia are doing so with the hope of instituting onerous land restrictions. Much more likely they are going for a better life. And btw business is making the same migration so that there employees can afford to buy a house and on a smaller salary !

  6. John Harris,

    If the state border is a violation of the NAP then those seeking to migrate have the right to kill border guards, right?

    Additionally, the migrants also have a positive right to pass the border, even though it is state controlled. I am curious about where that positive right to pass a state border comes from. Care to enlighten me?

  7. "As well consider the economic destruction only wrought by national border control. Economist Bryan Caplan estimates the collective wealth of the world would DOUBLE if national borders were dismantled thereby allowing the industrious to go wherever their abilities are best rewarded."

    Or he might be wrong. If he is right, think on this - would a bus driver in America want to work for $5 a day? Most jobs in America could be done just as well and for a lower labor cost by foreigners than by Americans. It may be that the total economic output is doubled, while the average American is delivered into penury.

    To reiterate: the only reason for American high wages is the labor flow restriction.

    1. Rothbard explains that there are 3 'stakeholders' in an economy:

      1. The workers
      2. The producers
      3. The consumers

      Marxism is about privileging the workers. Unionized government workers run the show. This is how it is now in the case of security and education in the US. Unionized monopoly government education workers control public education. Unionized monopoly government security workers control security. The consumer is boxed out of both, which is why both are so terrible and so brutal.

      Crony capitalism / fascism is about privileging the producer. Rothbard gave a wonderful set of lectures you can watch on youtube where he gives an extensive analysis of American economic history. In one he explains how the CAB functioned to enforce monopoly routes for the airlines. This was the era of glamorous air travel which catered exclusively to the rich. The low cost airline industry for the common man only came into being after entrepreneurs were able to shut down the CAB.

      Libertarianism is all about the consumer. In fact the most fundamental and elemental aspect of freedom is economic freedom. Anyone must be free to buy and sell from anyone else subject of course to NAP. The libertarian must privilege the consumer over both the producer and the worker.

    2. Ancap,

      In your world are there racial, ethnic, or religious conflicts? Even if Caplan is right about the doubling of output (doubtful), if the whole country explodes into conflict then that's not going to happen, is it?

  8. John

    “For you to agree that the state cannot be an agent while insisting "we" have no alternative to such an arrangement is illogical.”

    Let me introduce you to Guido; his family is Sicilian.

    “And you need not be "impotent" in managing your property boundaries.”

    You must be kidding. I have no choice about who I allow on my property in many circumstances, most certainly regarding my business.

    “No (natural) right depends on the permission on another for its exercise. Your right to exit / right to enter dichotomy is false.”

    Given your earlier statement: “In a "pure private property order," no one would have a "right to exit," as exiting would entail entry into the property of another and require permission of the owner,” I can conclude that in your opinion the Soviet Union was the pinnacle of a natural-rights respecting state.

    “Whether you have ever written otherwise, I have no idea.”

    Then it is curious that you raised the point in the first place.

  9. John Harris,

    The border guards aren't there to ask people politely, they have truncheons, guns, in addition to forceful methods and imprisonment. They WILL engage a border crosser that does not follow their demands. I assume, then, that once the border guards lay hands on the border crosser, the border crosser may then use such force, even lethal force, to resolve the confrontation. Correct?

    As for a positive right, you assume that the border crosser can require the border guards to grant him entry. To give an example of North Korea, does a foreign, non-Korean have the right to cross the border into North Korea? If so, why? I'm curious to know how denial of entry violates the NAP in relation to the border crosser, and if it does violate the NAP, why is it a violation when a community organized under a state does it and not a private actor?

  10. Identifying internal and external 'enemies' is an ancient ploy of political power. It is an artifice employed by a ruling political class to sell its necessity to its subjects. Already 2500 years ago in the Alcibiades, Plato talks about the necessity of maintaining both external and internal 'enemies of the state' as a tactic for preserving and expanding political power.

    Said differently, political authorities have a vested interest in inciting and preserving conflict. For example in the US the Neocons are stubbornly and recklessly determined to make Russia appear as an external enemy. At the same time the centerpiece of US public law enforcement is its hideous drug warfare project. The drug war has given the US political class the power of an army of occupation over its subjects at the cost of transforming so much of so many once peaceful prosperous American cities into dangerous war zones unfit to live in.

    Private enterprise security under the control of the consumer would never dream of deploying something as massively destructive as the drug warfare project. Rather private security, as indeed private enterprise itself, is all about cultivating peace and fostering civility.

  11. All

    Jacob Hornberger has inadvertently replied in the comments section of a different post. He has asked me to move his comments to this post, but my understanding of the technology limits me from doing so - if it is even possible.

    His comments can be found here:

  12. FFF article: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Classical-Liberal Alternative by Richard M. Ebeling: