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Discussion with Bieser on Immigration

From 2005

Debating Anti-Immigrant Man

2. September 2005

I promised I’d post any response from the previous entry, and wound up getting into an extended e-mail discussion with Mr. Kinsella. Since we both seem to sit in front of our computers all day, the responses were fairly rapid, so things wound down after just over a day.

Thinking that the results might be both entertaining and enlightening, I’ve assembled the thread into a more-or-less coherent narrative, and present it herewith (since comments were interspersed through quotes in the original, I’ve added comments in brackets for the sake of clarity):

Kinsella:

See my followup here: It addresses some of your points.

The state owns property that it should not. it should give it back, or privatizie it. but so long as it does not, what should it do with the property? you tell me, if you know what they should do with it? have no rules? some rules? If so, which ones?

I say some rules are better than others. A rule with a peaceful use fo the property, –is better than an aggressive, criminal use. so no, bombing others wold not be a good use of it. do you think it would be a libertarian use of the property to use it to harm others? How is my proposal suggesting the property be used to harm anyone? Who is it harming? Whose rights is my proposed policy violating?

As for airports, is it reasonable for an airport owner to want to establish safety standards? Geez, I wonder.

Bieser:

[what to be done with state property]
One answer you seem not to have considered, is that there _is_ no ethical way to determine rules on state-owned property. The rules are, and of necessity must be, determined by the dynamics of political power (whether autocratic rule-making or majority vote). To say that some rule or another is “libertarian” or not, is nonsensical.

[who is being harmed?]
Your policy would harm both immigrants seeking to avoid starvation, or at least a grim life of grinding poverty (or in some cases getting murdered by their local oligarchs), and those natives who wish to hire their labor.

[airport safety standards?]
So I take it you do not object to turning airports and subways into Bill of Rights nullification zones?

Kinsella:

[no ethical way to determine rules on state-owned property]
Okay. So you think it’s equally libertarian (or equally unlibertarian?) for the state to use its illegally acquired property to make a library, and to make an IRS complex? Interesting.

[harm to immigrants and would-be employers]
Does it violate the immigrant’s RIGHTS?

No.

Does it violate the wold-be employer’s rights? Well, you mean, he does not get to set the rules of the road the way he wants? But this is unavoidable when millions of people are co-owners of a resource.

[Bill of Rights nullification zones]
I don’t think an airport searching you violates the bill of rights, on.

Bieser:

[equally libertarian or equally unlibertarian?]
I would say that any theft of private property is unlibertarian. To allow that, well, the state has the property now, and we just have to accept that, and then ask the state to do with that stolen property what the majority wants done with it, is to condone the theft, all your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Now, given such a choice of course I would prefer a library to an IRS complex, because another library would be much less likely to cause me harm than a new IRS complex — but I wouldn’t say it would be more “libertarian” to advocate building a library. It might be “less unlibertarian” to advocate that, in the sense that it would be less “unChristian” to advocate Satanism in the public square than it would be to perform a human sacrifice in Satan’s name. We already have enough people advocating the building of libraries, why should libertarians add their voices to the chorus?

[whose rights are being violated?]
I was answering the first of your two questions, “How is my proposal suggesting the property be used to *harm* anyone?” I think it’s unarguable that restricting immigration harms immigrants and those who would trade with them.

As to violating rights, well, the argument gets a bit more complex.

In the first place, in many cases it is not true that foreigners do not pay to support roads in the United States. Those who come in on tourist visas quite clearly pay sales taxes and gasoline taxes, the principal funding source of roads (well, supposedly). They become “illegal immigrants” when they overstay their visas, but they are nonetheless just as much victims of taxation as are citizens.

In the case of illegal humans crossing the border illegally, many of them have paid United States taxes, indirectly. Mexicans, for example, purchase billions of dollars worth of goods from American companies. American exporting companies pay gasoline, income, and other excise taxes, and where does the money come from to pay those taxes? From their customers in Mexico.

So in many cases, immigrants are also victims of American government taxation, and are also deserving of “restitution” for the taxes they have been forced to pay albeit indirectly.

But this doesn’t seem to matter to your argument, which also holds that, since “99 percent” of tax-victims support a particular rule for the roads, and one percent objects, then to hell with the one percent. I wonder how you would feel if the numbers were a bit different, as in fact they are? While it’s true that a large majority of Americans favor restricting immigration, I’ve never seen a poll saying 99 percent feel that way. I’ll bet the number is closer to 85 percent. But what if it were only 55 percent?

And ultimately, since when is violating someone’s rights acceptable, in the realm of libertarian ethics, just because a majority of one’s neighbors thinks it’s a good idea? Ultimately, we’re back to the fact that it is impossible to set rules on public property according to libertarian ethics, because libertarian ethics holds that true rights do not conflict under normal circumstances, and rights are inviolable. We are left, in theory, with the principle of use optimization, and in practice, with political dymanics.

[airport searches not a rights violation]
You don’t? How about having random stops for searches of people walking along a public street? And if you hold that this is different, how is it different? We’re dealing with public property in both cases.

Kinsella:

[Any theft of property unlibertarian]
Not talking about the theft. Talking about remedial action afterwards.

[accepting the theft]
I have no ide what you are jabbering about. Who said we “have to” “just accept it”?

[condoning the theft]
Condone it? are you nuts? Where do you get this?

[choice between library and IRS complex]
WOO, WATCH OUT, you are “condoning” governemtn theft. What bullshit.

because another library would be much less likely to cause me harm than a new IRS complex — but I wouldn’t say it would be more “libertarian” to advocate building a library. It might be “less unlibertarian” to advocate that, in the sense that it would be less

Oh for christ’ sake, let’s get all semantical now. Jesus.

[libertarian advocating public library]
Are you saying you have no preference as to what the state does with properyt it owns–or that you have a preference but think you should keep quiet about it?

[what if only 55 percent supported immigrant restrictions]
Then it would be less clear, wouldn’t it. Hey, tragedy is possible–alert the media.

[when is violating rights of minority acceptable]
That’s question-begging. Whose rights, exaclty, are being violated?

Bieser:

[where do you get “condoning the theft?”]
You wrote previously:

The state owns property that it should not. it should give it back, or privatizie it. but so long as it does not, what should it do with the property?

“As long as it does not, what should we do with the property?” At this point you are accepting the theft, and now arguing about how the stolen property should be controlled by the thieves. To even have such a discussion is to tacitly accept that there is some ethical way to deal with stolen property in any way other than returning it to its rightful owners.

[let’s get all semantical now]
It’s not just semantics. There is a difference between “causing harm” and “violating rights.” There is also a difference between expressing a personal preference between two kinds of harm, or between two kinds of rights violations, and _advocating_ one form of harm or one form of rights violation, as you have done.

[no preference as to what state does with property?]
Again, there is a difference between indicating a preference between two “bads” and claiming that one of the “bads” isn’t really “bad” at all, but may be a good idea..

[whose rights are being violated?]
I addressed that question later on in my last post. Did you get a truncated version?

And anyway, you as much as admitted that those wishing to hire or trade with illegal humans _are_ having their rights violated, but you dismissed it as unimportant, because they are (allegedly) only one percent of the native population.

Kinsella:

[accepting the theft]
I have no idea what you mean by “accepting the theft.” How does one “accept” “a theft”? What EXACTLY do you mean? If you try to express yourself carefully and precisely, you may see you are making some errors.

[no ethical way to use stolen property]
So you think it’s equally libertarian (or equally unlibertarian?) for the state to use its illegally acquired property to make a library, and to make an IRS complex or nuclear or chemical weapons facility? Interesting.

Whatever.

[difference between choosing between two “bads” and advocating a “bad”]
Whatever man.

[did you get a truncated version?]
Dunno. Perhaps.

Bieser:

[what do you mean by “accept?”]
I am using the term “accept” according to its definition of “to accommodate or reconcile oneself to” (Webster’s College Dictionary, Random House).

In the vernacular, to build an argument for the moral propriety of taking advantage of an immoral situation, is to “make a deal with the Devil.”

[library and IRS complex equally libertarian]
I thought I had explained already that something can be more desirable, or less, from a personal standpoint, without regard to its “libertarian-ness.”

[Whatever man]
“Whatever” is how my teen-aged son responds to a question or challenge that he doesn’t really have an intelligent answer for. Is that how I should interpret this from you?

[truncated e-mail?]
>Well, here is the section that you have not yet responded to, again:

>> as for airports, is it reasonable for an airport owner to want to establish safety standards? Geez, I wonder.
> So I take it you do not object to turning airports and subways into Bill of Rights nullification zones?< >
> I don’t think an airport searching you violates the bill of rights, on.

You don’t? How about having random stops for searches of people walking along a public street? And if you hold that this is different, how is it different? We’re dealing with public property in both cases.

Kinsella:

[dealing with the Devil]
Yeah, I still don’t know what you mean bye “accepting” a theft. As a libertairan, I believe all theft is unjustified. I “accept” that some theft nonetheless occurs, however. Do you deny that theft occurs?

[difference between “desirability” and libertarian-ness explained]
Sure, then you waffled again. You are over the map, podnah–implicitly adopting stances you accuse me of holding.

[whatever?]
I don’t really know how you “should” interpret it, but what I mean by it is I don’t think you are being serious or coherent here; you are facetiously flip flopping and delving into irrelevant semantics and minutae that I don’t see it worthwhile picking apart.

[random searches on public streets?]
Never thought about it. Depends on the context and purpose I guess. Of course, I oppose all public streets in the first place. Do you? Are you an anarchist, as I am? Or, rather, do you endorse the existence of public property, and therefore the necessary abuses that come with it?

Bieser:

[what exactly to you mean by “accepting” a theft?]
I thought I had just clarified this matter, but I’ll try again. The term “accept” has several meanings and shades of meaning. The meaning I am using here is, “to accommodate or reconcile oneself to a situation.” The meaning you seem to be using above is, “to acknowledge the fact of a situation.”

I acknowledge that theft occurs, but I do not accommodate or reconcile myself to the fact that it has occurred. I do not take advantage of the fact that the theft has occurred as a springboard to advance an agenda against some group of people I don’t happen to like.

[flip flopping and irrelevant semantics]
So you don’t accept that there’s a significant difference between finding something more or less desirable, versus more or less libertarian? If that’s the case, how does libertarian theory determine which form of artwork, or music, or literature, is more or less desirable?

[are you an anarchist like me?]
I’ve been an anarchist for more than a quarter-century, “podnuh.” I do not endorse the existence of public property, although I should point out that this is what you are implicitly doing in your original article, your pro-forma declarations to the contrary notwithstanding. (”As long as the roads are owned by government (accommodating and reconciling oneself to the situation), we might as well take advantage of the situation by using majority rule to ban (arbitrarily-designated) illegal humans from using them.”)

If we did live in a culture in which individual liberty was highly valued, and therefore roads and streets were privately owned, I would not expect to see random stops for searches, or “portal” emplacements through which people must pass. The reasons for this are that, 1) such activity is fairly expensive, and 2) people in such a society simply would not tolerate that sort of thing.

Kinsella:

[acknowledging versus reconciling]
I have no idea what that latter sentence means. No idea at all. Glad I’m an engineer, not a liberal arts major, and use rigorous terms, not loosey
goosey poetic stuff. :)

[taking advantage of a theft to promote an agenda]
Okay. Whatever that means.

Look. The state IS RUNNING THE ROADS (and other private property). you and I both KNOW THIS IS A FACT. That does not mean we ENDORSE IT. We both have a libertarian preference that the best thing they could do is WALK AWY FROM THE ROADS (abandon them, or perform some other act of privatization). But they are not doing this and will not do it. So meanwhjile this means they do run the roads; they set rules and enforce them. Now, it is obvious to any sane libertarian that some rules are not only better, but more libertarian, than others; and to recognzie this is not to endorse the continuing trespass!

[”libertarian” preferences in art]
Let’s just stick to libertarian stuff, k? It seems to me that it is libertarian to respect the property rights of people. If a group of people have a claim on a resource held by the state, then they have a collective ownership claim in it; and their subjective prefernes to matter for libertarian purposes. It is libertarian to want to maximize restitution made to victims; and therefore, it is relevant to ask what their subjective preferences ARE (which are a-libertarain) so as to maximize their restitution (which IS libertarian).

[anarchist for a quarter-century-plus]
Hmm. I think you beat me by a little. I started around 20-22 years ago.

Good man. So you are an anarchist, like me? Whew, I was worried you were just another minarchist hypocrite. :)

[implicitly endorsing public property]
Oh, I disagree completely. It is not endorsing the existence of the state to have a preference for what the criminal does with it. If some criminal steals my gun, I can ‘prefer” that he not use it to murder someone; I can prefer he use it to hunt instead of to murder. AsI am the rightful owner, my preference matters–and is therefore relevant for libertarian
considerations. no? And does my having this preference mean I am “endorsing the existence of the theft”? No.

[individualist, property respecting society would not have random searches]
Maybe. Who knows. But I am not a results-libertarian; I am more of a process libertarian. Most old-fashioned libertarians are hippies and really care only about having the ability to smoke pot. They would oppose a private society where their local community privately bans marijuana; I would not, at least, not on libertarian grounds. You’re not a hippie, are you? :)

But I could see cases where more searches were done in private places like this, depending on the prevalence of terroristsor crime. Who knows. I could see nuclear weapons being de facto banned simply by the operation of insurance companies refusing to insure you if you don’t agree to not have them, etc. I guess the results-oriented libertarian gun nuts would think that’s a violation of their right to carry nukes.

But if we did live in the society you mention, the private roads would ALSO not be used as a means of forced integration due to anti-discrimination and similar laws; nor would they be free and open to everyone. At the least, the road would want people to get on, pay a toll, and have a (private) destination arranged, where the person is invited. Otehrwise the person
would never e able to get off the road. So this means extreme undesirables and the utterly poor and unable to work would find it practially impossible to get on the roads anyway. In this case the immigrants would not be a poltiical danger as they are now, and we would not be opposing it. Nor would there be a state imposed immigration criteria that ends up artifically changing the cultural makeup of the country. But as it is now, we have all these things. Given the existence of these sad facts, open borders would be cultural suicide and costly in many other ways as well. You might prefer that, but I don’t. Imagine what would happen to Switerland tomorrow if they opened their borders. It would cease to exist. You might not care, but I do. The Swiss do.

Bieser:

Well, I think this argument is about done. Time to stick a fork in it.

As I indicated previously, I’m going to put these e-mails together into a coherent “point-counterpoint” discussion and upload it to my blog. I think it should prove both entertaining and enlightening. I just set this site up a couple of days ago, and once I get this discussion up I’ll be announcing the blog site to my various friends and associates.

[Kinsella consents to have discussion posted, after removing some digressions not germaine to the discussion.]

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