Immigration, Take 2

An Anarchist friend of mine suggested that I wouldn’t find anything to object to in The Libertarian Immigration Conundrum by Per Bylund. However, I didn’t get into the second paragraph without doing so.

On the one hand, it is not possible as a libertarian to support a regulated immigration policy, since government itself is never legitimate.

I don’t want to argue with anarchists, I really don’t. It’s counterproductive. I want government out of my life, they want government out of their lives, we shouldn’t have to argue about the little nit picky things like government legitimacy.

And then one of them goes and throws a bombshell like the above. For the record, there are two kinds (at least) of libertarians. One group freely calls themselves anarchist (technically anarcho-capitalist) and takes the above view. The other (far larger) group just wants less government interference in day to day life (Less government interference = more freedom) some of us freely use the label that Robert Nozick (that Per Bylund references in his piece) coined for us, Minarchist, which loosely translates into “The least amount of government needed.” Mr Bylund himself must therefore be aware that his sweeping generalization is in error, but he goes on with the article anyway based on this erroneous assessment of Libertarians.

The reason that open borders is the right way to look at immigration policy is pragmatic, not idealistic. Pragmatically, the cost to close borders is prohibitively high, just in monetary terms. The cost in lost privacy, freedom, etc. doesn’t even bear thinking about (which is why anyone that advocates closing the borders isn’t a libertarian) Realistically, we have never been able to close the borders, not even in a state of war.

Which is why we should just let ’em in. Get whatever information the control freaks think we have to have in order to track the new immigrants (fingerprints, DNA, retinal scans, whatever) and let them get to work. I don’t have time for fantastical arguments concerning natural rights and the ownership of the commons, those sorts of things can be saved for the day that the anarchists get rid of government. I doubt that I’ll be there for that.


Wait a minute. What did I say in that last paragraph? I don’t have time to argue about rights? Who is this imposter?

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

One thought on “Immigration, Take 2”

  1. The message below was sent to R Anthony Steele on January 2 as a response to this blog entry.


    I have been discussing the government issue with libertarians, classical liberals, and conservatives for many, many years. The conclusion I draw from this experience of mine is that what underlies the libertarian positions on government, whether to abolish it or keep it in “minarchist” form, is a deep-rooted skepticism.

    It is not very interesting to discuss the anarchist view on government and the State; it is rather obvious. The minarchist view, on the other hand, is much more interesting. Minarchist libertarians do not find government a good solution and they also do not (almost without exception) find government legitimate philosophically.

    However, they (I’m no minarchist) do support government to a certain degree. It is, philosophically, a contradiction to see government (i.e. the organization claiming and enforcing a monopoly of violence in a certain territory) both as right AND wrong. Saying government is wrong and government has no right to rule me, tax me, or decide for me in my life while claiming governments NEED exist would in principle be two contradictory statements.

    But I do not think the minarchist position is in essence a contradictory one. Instead, I have come to realize that anarchist and minarchist libertarians share their skepticism and, sometimes, hatred for government. Their main difference is that anarchist libertarians believe order and rights in society can come about spontaneously and voluntarily, whereas minarchists take a few steps back towards a government position claiming there need to be something to protect individuals’ freedom and rights. I say there is no contradiction simply because they share the same philosophical foundation!

    However, minarchists and anarchists do differ in their view on what can work practically. From a minarchist viewpoint, the minarchist view includes a pragmatic support for government whereas anarchism is utopian. Anarchism supplies no guarantee for individual rights. The difference between the two, I conclude, is pragmatic.

    I guess this is why both viewpoints still share the same label: libertarianism. Libertarians have a common world-view and a common philosophical basis for their (our) social normative, but have different practical solutions as to how society could function in a libertarian way.

    To minarchists, the anarchist position is utterly utopian, perhaps even idealistic, and they conclude it would not work. Such a society could quickly degenerate into chaos and misery since there is no final arbiter in conflicts and no power to leash or control the evils unavoidably existent in society. The reasoning is that there needs to be something larger, but external to the market, setting the basic rules and enforcing them. Without the enforcement of rights, there are no rights.

    That, I believe, is also the basis for Nozick’s discussion in Anarchy, State and Utopia. Contrary to what people generally claim, his magnum opus does not contain arguments against anarchism; actually, he does not supply a single one. Instead, he discusses how a State could emerge in anarchist society without violating rights, and why it would then be preferable to make the private monopoly protection agency into something resembling a state.

    His argument is, partly, that a private monopoly is as inefficient as a public monopoly, but that the main difference is that a private monopoly only supplies services for customers. A public monopoly could be made to supply everybody with such services. And if that service is rights enforcement, it is both from the teleological and deontological viewpoints, preferable to make the monopoly public (i.e. to enforce everybody’s natural rights).

    Nozick thus argues public rights enforcement is 1) preferable to private such, and 2) that such a monopoly can be established without necessarily violating rights. I believe he is wrong, but that is not really important in discussing the issue at hand, i.e. whether government itself is legitimate or not.

    I would say such a public monopoly dedicated to providing rights enforcement for everybody without in turn violating their rights is nothing of a government. If it does not violate rights, it would not be able to enforce its monopoly and it would also not violate voluntary agreements between consenting adults. A government by definition has to enforce and maintain its monopoly of violence, without which it is an organization like any other.

    The minarchist “government” is therefore a public service, not a government. As soon as it violates rights it would be a government, but until it does it would not. I would therefore say that from the minarchist perspective, government is illegitimate whereas Nozick’s “minarchist state” is not.

    Per Bylund

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.

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