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Reply to Neverfox on immigration: “Whatever Mileage We Put On, We’ll Take Off”

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June 29, 2009 at 05:05

Neverfox, Gary: I am not for closed borders. I am not for the INS. I am for its abolition. My article was “an argument for”–I was trying to present the best argument I could think of for some mild limitation on immigration by the state controlling roads for the benefit of its real owners (to simplify: current US residents and taxpayers). Gary, the “authority” (arguendo) would come from the owners (the US taxpayers) who have a natural ownership claim to the road. But in the end, I am not in favor of the power of the state being used to limit immigration.

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  • Rad Geek July 10, 2009, 7:58 am

    Stephan,

    I understand that you don’t necessarily mean to endorse the argument you are presenting. But, just to get clear on the details of the setup:

    1. In the argument, as presented, the people who you claim to be the rightful owners of the road system are “U.S. taxpayers” (since it was their money that was stolen to build and maintain the roads). You then suggest that this is a reason why rules of the road could legitimately be adopted which exclude or condition access for “outsiders,” which apparently you read as people who are not U.S. citizens.

    But “taxpayer” and “citizen” are not the same category. Not all citizens are taxpayers and lots of taxpayers aren’t citizens. Many citizens are net tax recipients; all immigrants, both government-approved and undocumented, pay at least some taxes to the local, state, and U.S. governments (gas tax, sin tax, sales tax, property tax through markups on rent, often income tax, etc.) and many, probably most, are in fact net taxpayers (since immigrants are ineligible for most welfare benefits that citizens are eligible for). So if you’re considering “taxpayers” to be the class of people who rightfully should have joint ownership of the roads, wouldn’t that suggest that your average undocumented worker has a substantially better claim on having a say in forming rules about who can use of government roads than upstanding citizens like Fritz Henderson, military-welfare recipients like Jim Gilchrist, or milfare administrators like Marvin Stewart?

    2. Presuming, arguendo, that U.S. taxpayers (not necessarily citizens) are the rightful owners of government-funded roads (certainly the government is not, so…), do you think it likely that the shares and distribution of rightful ownership would be uniform across all taxpayers and across all roads? So, for example, have I, living on Rochelle Ave. in Las Vegas, earned a vote over what people living and working on Cass in Detroit can or cannot do with their road? Have the folks on Cass earned an equal say to me over who can or cannot use Rochelle here? When we’re trying to figure out what a private property owner would do, do we have to conceive of, say, the policies of a single private proprietor or a single private entity who owned all 2,500 miles of I-10? Or might the patterns of rightful ownership — hence the distribution of use policies — be somewhat more decentralized than that?

  • Stephan Kinsella July 10, 2009, 8:17 am

    Charles (rad):

    1. In the argument, as presented, the people who you claim to be the rightful owners of the road system are “U.S. taxpayers” (since it was their money that was stolen to build and maintain the roads).

    Well it’s not only b/c they were stolen from–it would be anyone with a claim on the state–anyone they had harmed, etc. So in theory it could be the widow of an Iraqi civilian killed by US bombs, etc.

    You then suggest that this is a reason why rules of the road could legitimately be adopted which exclude or condition access for “outsiders,” which apparently you read as people who are not U.S. citizens.

    Technically, “owners” refers to those who have a claim on state assets (mostly US taxpayers, but others too, I suppose), and “outsiders” to those who don’t.

    But “taxpayer” and “citizen” are not the same category. Not all citizens are taxpayers and lots of taxpayers aren’t citizens.

    Correct. But most citizens are victimized by the state so still have a claim on it.

    Many citizens are net tax recipients; all immigrants, both government-approved and undocumented, pay at least some taxes to the local, state, and U.S. governments (gas tax, sin tax, sales tax, property tax through markups on rent, often income tax, etc.) and many, probably most, are in fact net taxpayers (since immigrants are ineligible for most welfare benefits that citizens are eligible for).

    true… but one could argue that IF the basic argument here is correct, then the road-owners can, via their agent (the state), condition the use of public property by outsiders on an agreement to pay taxes–so that the taxes paid by undocumented or even documented “outsiders” don’t count to give them an ownership claim.

    So if you’re considering “taxpayers” to be the class of people who rightfully should have joint ownership of the roads, wouldn’t that suggest that your average undocumented worker has a substantially better claim on having a say in forming rules about who can use of government roads than upstanding citizens like Fritz Henderson,

    I guess this is arguable, except as noted above: even non-taxpaying citizens are victimized by the state and have a claim and thus ownership; and outsiders can be viewed as coming here with permission of the road owners and giving up their claims as part of the bargain.

    Again, this is not an argument I completely buy….

    2. Presuming, arguendo, that U.S. taxpayers (not necessarily citizens) are the rightful owners of government-funded roads (certainly the government is not, so…), do you think it likely that the shares and distribution of rightful ownership would be uniform across all taxpayers and across all roads?

    I’m not sure there is any armchair libertarian way to figure this out. It’s messy (which is one problem with crime in the first place).

    So, for example, have I, living on Rochelle Ave. in Las Vegas, earned a vote over what people living and working on Cass in Detroit can or cannot do with their road? Have the folks on Cass earned an equal say to me over who can or cannot use Rochelle here? When we’re trying to figure out what a private property owner would do, do we have to conceive of, say, the policies of a single private proprietor or a single private entity who owned all 2,500 miles of I-10? Or might the patterns of rightful ownership — hence the distribution of use policies — be somewhat more decentralized than that?

    I tend to think it would be decentralized and ad hoc and catch as catch can; so for example if you are able to get $$ from the state, take it. This implies however that only libertarians are entitled to welfare; anyone who supports it is not, since they are aiding and abetting the state by their support of it and also consenting to it. So in a way, the owners of the roads are all libertarians not all taxpayers.

  • Rad Geek July 10, 2009, 2:52 pm

    Stephan:

    Technically, “owners” refers to those who have a claim on state assets (mostly US taxpayers, but others too, I suppose), and “outsiders” to those who don’t.

    Well, right, which I think is my point — that the classes of “owners” and “outsiders” here don’t actually line up very well at all with either citizenship or immigration status. Which I would think tends to undermine the extent to which discrimination in favor of use by owners would result in anything looking like an even minimally restrictive immigration policy.

    true… but one could argue that IF the basic argument here is correct, then the road-owners can, via their agent (the state), condition the use of public property by outsiders on an agreement to pay taxes–so that the taxes paid by undocumented or even documented “outsiders” don’t count to give them an ownership claim.

    1. I don’t think that the state is acting as the agent of taxpayers.

    2. I agree that this sort of thing is a possible arrangement in a case of property that is either owned jointly by an association of private individuals, or owned in common by the unorganized public, if you already have a tolerably good idea of who constitutes the association or the public, prior to and independently of the arrangement. In fact, I imagine it’d be pretty common on thoroughfares where they might be able to get some tolls from it.

    But as a way of sorting out and settling the rightful ownership claims for a road currently occupied by a criminal enterprise like government, when we don’t yet have an account of who has the rightful ownership claim and who doesn’t, this seems pretty ad hoc. If natural-born citizen Roderick, naturalized citizen Arnold, documented immigrant Hans-Hermann, and undocumented immigrant Juan Maria all start using government roads at about the same time, and all start being forced to pay in taxes at about the same time, what’s the basis for categorizing (say) the taxes paid in by Roderick and Arnold as payments toward a share of ownership, but no the payments put in by Hans-Hermann or Juan Maria, such that Roderick or Arnold’s preferences for the property count towards setting requirements for admission, but Hans-Hermann’s or Manolo’s don’t? Of course, you can’t just cite Roderick and Arnold’s preferences about who should or should not be allowed to buy in, while ignoring Hans-Hermann’s and Juan Maria’s, when the question at hand is precisely who among the possible candidates are going to have their preferences counted and whose are going to be ignored; that would pretty directly beg the question.

    (My own view on the matter, for what it’s worth, is that payment just radically underdetermines the question of who has the best claim here, since it’s so universal and run through so many anonymizing centralized slush funds; so what you’ll have to look at is, first, trying to reverse eminent domain seizures to the extent possible, and, after that, looking to something more like payment plus Rothbardian homesteading, which would be determined by who lives on, works on, or otherwise habitually uses the road. But if that’s the standard, then there are lots of communities where lots of undocumented immigrants live on, work on, or otherwise habitually use, U.S. roads.)

    I’m not sure there is any armchair libertarian way to figure this out. It’s messy (which is one problem with crime in the first place). …. I tend to think it would be decentralized and ad hoc and catch as catch can ….

    Sure, I agree. And doesn’t that make it extremely unlikely that any one-size-fits-all national border restrictions could even remotely approximate what the rightful owners would do with their property in roads, parks, etc. if free to set their own terms? If it actually reflects a decentralized, ad hoc, messy sort of approach, shouldn’t the expected result be decentralized, ad hoc, and messy, rather than a single policy for everyone all across the continental expanse of the U.S. — producing a border sieve rather than a closed border wall?

  • Stephan Kinsella July 10, 2009, 3:35 pm

    “Which I would think tends to undermine the extent to which discrimination in favor of use by owners would result in anything looking like an even minimally restrictive immigration policy.”

    It still helps illustrate the argument that it does not violate “outsiders'” rights if they are denied access to public property; but only the rights of owners.
    “1. I don’t think that the state is acting as the agent of taxpayers.”

    The state is in possession of property others have a better claim to. The state should disband, and let the owners reclaim it. If and to the extent it doesn’t, can we be ambivalent over how it uses the property? no, I think some uses are worse than others–and uses that give something of value back to larger numbers of owners is better, ceteris paribus, than use that does not. Right? It’s like mitigating the damage. If someone steals your car you’d prefer they return it in good shape after an hour, to them blowing it up. Right?

    “But as a way of sorting out and settling the rightful ownership claims for a road currently occupied by a criminal enterprise like government, when we don’t yet have an account of who has the rightful ownership claim and who doesn’t, this seems pretty ad hoc.”

    Sure. I’m not in favor of it. To me it helps to demonstrate that the state is harming owners of the property, not outsiders.

    “(My own view on the matter, for what it’s worth, is that payment just radically underdetermines the question of who has the best claim here, since it’s so universal and run through so many anonymizing centralized slush funds; so what you’ll have to look at is, first, trying to reverse eminent domain seizures to the extent possible, and, after that, looking to something more like payment plus Rothbardian homesteading, which would be determined by who lives on, works on, or otherwise habitually uses the road.”

    yes, I think this is by and large reasonable.

    My view is that basically any returning of the property to private hands is an improvement. It could happen by people seizing property piece by piece from the state, thus claiming it by sort of conquest, or re-homesteading; or if the staet disbanded, to be honest probably the fairest solution would be to hold an auction and distribute the monetary proceeds among claimants, divided as best as possible according to what weightings seem most just.

    “Sure, I agree. And doesn’t that make it extremely unlikely that any one-size-fits-all national border restrictions could even remotely approximate what the rightful owners would do with their property in roads, parks, etc. if free to set their own terms?”

    Yes, probably right. As I have said, I am not in favor of state border controls. I’m an anarchist.

    “If it actually reflects a decentralized, ad hoc, messy sort of approach, shouldn’t the expected result be decentralized, ad hoc, and messy,”

    Yes, good point.

    “rather than a single policy for everyone all across the continental expanse of the U.S. — producing a border sieve rather than a closed border wall?”

    Yes, and this is perhaps one reason why Hoppe himself, on p. 148 of his Democracy book:

    Abolishing forced integration requires the de-democratization of society and ultimately the abolition of democracy. More specifically, the power to admit or exclude should be stripped from the hands of the central government and reassigned to the states, provinces, cities, towns, villages, residential districts, and ultimately to private property owners and their voluntary associations.

  • Bob Kaercher July 13, 2009, 2:09 pm

    Stephan, what consistently stumps me in your argument on this issue is the insistence on treating the national, government-policed borders “owned” on behalf of taxpayers with the same standards that apply to private property, even though you say at the same time that thinking of the borders, roads, etc., in this way is “messy.” Isn’t it more accurate to say that as long as a coercive institution such as the government is monopolizing the property along the borders and the roads that stretch across them such property should simply be considered unowned until such time as they are legitimately owned?

    As for the Hoppe quote, where’s the “forced integration” happening?

  • Stephan Kinsella July 13, 2009, 2:28 pm

    Bob,

    “Stephan, what consistently stumps me in your argument on this issue is the insistence on treating the national, government-policed borders “owned” on behalf of taxpayers with the same standards that apply to private property, even though you say at the same time that thinking of the borders, roads, etc., in this way is “messy.” Isn’t it more accurate to say that as long as a coercive institution such as the government is monopolizing the property along the borders and the roads that stretch across them such property should simply be considered unowned until such time as they are legitimately owned?”

    But the property is not unowned. It has an owner. Who can say it hasn’t been homesteaded yet? Are you suggesting a pretension or legal fiction–that we treat it as if it’s unowned, even though it’s not?

    What would the implications of this be…? The private parties have a right to homestead it? But I think they basically do anyway. The state is just in the way.

    “As for the Hoppe quote, where’s the “forced integration” happening?”

    I think he is referring to the fact that when the state enforces anti-discrimination laws, and then subsidizes public travel, they make it more difficult for property owners to segregate or discriminate.

  • Bob Kaercher July 13, 2009, 3:00 pm

    “But the property is not unowned. It has an owner.”

    But who’s rightfully the owner(s)? Determining this is nearly impossible because all the property in question has been effectively stolen and monopolized over the span of many years. Tracing it to any legitimate owner(s) is virtually impossible in this case. (As in virtually every case of government “ownership” of property. Who’s to say who actually gets what share of all those millions of acres of public lands out west?)

    “Who can say it hasn’t been homesteaded yet?”

    I’m not sure I follow. How can government-controlled property have been “homesteaded”?

    “Are you suggesting a pretension or legal fiction–that we treat it as if it’s unowned, even though it’s not?”

    Well, based on my observation above, I think I would have to say yes. It seems to me that answering the opposite actually concedes some legitimacy to government’s coercive “ownership” and conrol of property. What am I not getting?

  • Stephan Kinsella July 13, 2009, 3:19 pm

    Bob, Yes, it’s hard to determine the rightful owner. So I am not sure my view has much different result than the “it’s unowned” view. It’s just that it’s not unowned. Consider: you own a house. The state steals it and uses it for a state office. Is it now unowned? Part of the state of nature?

    “I’m not sure I follow. How can government-controlled property have been “homesteaded”?”

    Because it’s used, got a first user. It’s embordered.

    ““Are you suggesting a pretension or legal fiction–that we treat it as if it’s unowned, even though it’s not?”

    “Well, based on my observation above, I think I would have to say yes. It seems to me that answering the opposite actually concedes some legitimacy to government’s coercive “ownership” and conrol of property. What am I not getting?”

    I don’t think it concedes legitimacy. We just have to distinguish between positive law and libertarian law. To own is to have the right to control. If you mean a libertarian (moral, natural) “right” to control, you are talking about libertarian (moral, natural) ownership; if you mean a positive law right to control, you are talking about actual positive ownership.

    For example if the state puts you in jail for smoking marijuana, it is assuming the legal right to control your body; whereas we libertarians would say you have the natural right still.

  • Bob Kaercher July 13, 2009, 4:45 pm

    “Consider: you own a house. The state steals it and uses it for a state office. Is it now unowned? Part of the state of nature?”

    No, of course not. But my whole point is that the rightful owners in the case of today’s border-property and road infrastructure are nearly impossible to determine, unlike the subject of your analogy. Border-property was appropriated by means of force many years ago. If you can somehow do a title search and find out who the rightful owners were of any parcel of border-property when the gov’t seized it all those years ago, then great, surely the property should go to their heirs or assigns (if there are any living).

    As for the legitimate owners of the roads/highways that stretch across the borders, I don’t know how it’s possible to even conceive of a way to determine the rightful owners of that property.

    In any case, I believe that most of the thousands of miles of border-property was unowned at the time it was seized by gov’t.

    “[Government-controlled property can be counted as homesteaded] Because it’s used, got a first user. It’s embordered.”

    First used and embordered by whom in this case? Government?

    “I don’t think it concedes legitimacy. We just have to distinguish between positive law and libertarian law. To own is to have the right to control. If you mean a libertarian (moral, natural) ‘right’ to control, you are talking about libertarian (moral, natural) ownership; if you mean a positive law right to control, you are talking about actual positive ownership.”

    The primary reason I’m a libertarian is because of my conviction that libertarian morality with respect to the use of force in social relations (which I take to be derived from natural law) is sound, while statist morality is unsound due to its claim that this group of individuals called the state should be privileged to be the first initiators of force.

    If the “actual positive ownership” of a given property is ownership by means of coercion, such as the governmental means, then the positive law conclusion conflicts with the “libertarian (moral, natural)” ownership conclusion and the “positive ownership” claim is illegitimate.

  • Stephan Kinsella July 13, 2009, 5:20 pm

    Bob:

    “First used and embordered by whom in this case? Government?”

    Sometimes. Or by a private user and then bought from him with tax dollars or taken from him.

    “The primary reason I’m a libertarian is because of my conviction that libertarian morality with respect to the use of force in social relations (which I take to be derived from natural law) is sound, while statist morality is unsound due to its claim that this group of individuals called the state should be privileged to be the first initiators of force.”

    Sure. Of course.

    “If the “actual positive ownership” of a given property is ownership by means of coercion, such as the governmental means, then the positive law conclusion conflicts with the “libertarian (moral, natural)” ownership conclusion and the “positive ownership” claim is illegitimate.”

    Sure. We libertarians could be said to be those who want positive law to conform to natural law.

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