Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kinsella on Hoppe on Immigration

Some lively conversation has already erupted at the Center for a Stateless Society over Kevin Carson's new commentary, “Authoritarians in Libertarian Clothing.” Carson expresses his puzzlement at the support many putative libertarians seem inclined to offer to hierarchical social arrangements in the workplace, the family, etc.

Offering a characteristically clear and pugnacious response, Stephan Kinsella begs to demur. For whatever reason, WordPress hasn't made it possible for me to contribute to the thread of comments on Carson’s post, so I’ve decided to take the opportunity to react to one aspect of Kinsella's argument here.

Carson notes “the argument, by Hans Hermann Hoppe and his followers, that immigration would be restricted in a free market anarchy by the universal appropriation of land,” and points out some objections to it. Kinsella responds:
As for Hoppe–well, although he’s actually against state immigration restrictions as an anarchist, at worst, his second-best approach is to have some restrictions on immigration given that the existence of the state means that someone will lose, whether the state enforces some, or no, immigration rules. Yet, most libertarians support some immigration restrictions, if only the type that says keep out criminals or people who don’t have means of support. I guess most libertarians are “authoritarian.

It would be helpful for me if Kinsella could clarify for me a little what he means by a “second-best approach” with respect to immigration restrictions. It sounds to me as if he’s saying something like this: “There happens, in fact, to be a state; right now, we can’t do much about that. Whatever the state chooses to do with respect to immigration, someone’s position will be worsened. So some restrictions are justified and, indeed, preferable to the absence of restrictions.”

I guess I’m not sure how the fact (let’s accept it as such arguendo) that someone will be worse off no matter what the state does with respect to immigration would necessarily make imposing immigration restrictions appropriate from the standpoint of a Rothbardian or someone of similar moral-cum-political persuasion. Ignore for the moment the obvious interference with prima facie reasonable contractual relationships between workers and employers caused by restrictions on the ability to work without Social Security registration; focus instead on borders. The land adjacent to a border is either privately owned, owned by no one, or claimed by the state. If it’s privately owned or owned by no one, it’s not clear on what basis someone holding a Rothbardian or similar position could regard it as morally acceptable for the state to assert the right to prevent people from entering it from another country. And if the land is claimed by the state, the claim would seem in principle to be invalid, given the general moral invalidity of state claims to authority, as well as the fact that state claims are likely to be further invalidated in virtue of their roots in violence and conquest.

It’s unclear, then, that a person proposing to enter a state’s (putative) territory would have any moral reason to care whether the state sought to restrict entry to the territory or not. In turn, then, it’s not clear on what basis, from a perspective like Hoppe’s, an agent of the state could be morally justified in repelling people seeking to enter the territory without the state’s permission, since the state has no right to control “its” own property and certainly no authority over private property.

There is, in any event, something a little curious about the language of “second-best” from someone like Hoppe. It seems as if there’s no difference in principle (but only as a matter of degree) between saying that enforcing immigration restrictions is a second-best policy, given the existence of the state, to say that, given the existence of the state, taxes ought to be collected to pay for it or that, given the existence of the state, an enormous military force is needed to protect its interests, etc. Why couldn’t “second-best” arguments of the kind you impute to Hoppe be offered on behalf of these things, too? And, if they can, doesn’t that constitute a reductio ad absurdum of the claim that this is in any interesting sense an anarcho-capitalist argument?

4 comments:

Stephan Kinsella said...

I'm not defending a second-best approach one way or the other. I'm simply saying that at worst Hoppe's "deviation" on this one issue of immigration is (a) a type of deviation held by most libertians since most libertarians support *some* restrictions on immigration (are most libertarians authoritarian? I think not); and (b) only a disagreement about second-best solutions, since Hoppe is in fact pro-anarchy which means he is against the state and against any state immigration controls. So, you would think "center for a stateless society" would realize this an not accuse him of being an authoritarian on immigration when he's really, like them, against all state immigration apparatus.

Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the link, Gary.

The focus of my disagreement with Hoppe, in the piece in question, has nothing to do with his dialectical views of current immigration policies as they relate to other state policies, or in what order they should be dismantled. It has everything to do with his vision of an ideal end-state--particularly his view that land can be so universally appropriated that there's no public right or other common land on which to stand without permission, and that such a society is desirable.

Gary Chartier said...

Stephan, thanks for clarifying your position, and for your willingness to continue this conversation on two different fronts.

I guess I'm unclear just what it means to be "aganst any state immigration controls" and opposed to the "state immigration apparatus" while regarding some controls as acceptable, even if only on a second-best basis. If Hoppe's overall position were consequentialist, that would make sense. But it seems to me that, as a deontological theorist who regards the state as illegitimate, he's going to have a tough time arguing that, for instance, a would-be (illegal) immigrant has any particular reason to obey state-imposed immigration restrictions, or that, say, a prospective employer should feel obligated to abide by those restrictions.

Kevin, sorry if I pushed the conversation off onto a tangent. Yes, I understand that your disagreement with Hoppe focuses on a set of issues more fundamental than those I raised in my post. I just couldn't resist the temptation to push Stephan on one narrow topic that wasn't, of course, your central concern.

You've been quite clear about issues related to a transition to anarchy; but has Hoppe said anything that would allow him to argue for obedience to, say, current immigration restrictions?

I quite agree with you that the universal appropriation of land "is simply impossible using any rules of appropriation that are not repugnant to libertarian principle." But I take it that Hoppe would disagree—he'd have to do so, or his position, as I understand it, wouldn't make sense.

Stephan Kinsella said...

Gary,

I think you and Kevin follow me here, but let me make sure it's clear that my substantive discussion of Hoppe's immigration views is separate from my comments to Kevin about his charges of "authoritarian."

On that latter issue first--and regarding Carson's comments here:

"The focus of my disagreement with Hoppe ... has ... to do with his vision of an ideal end-state--particularly his view that land can be so universally appropriated that there's no public right or other common land on which to stand without permission, and that such a society is desirable."

A few replies here. It seems Carson is saying if you think all property ought to be privately owned, this is authoritarian. Well, I suppose you can make this argument, but then you are indicting most libertarians, certainly most anarcho-libertarians. So why single out Hoppe? I think it's ridiculous to argue that it's "authoritarian" to favor universal private property ownership.

As for Hoppe's "vision"? Well, again, his vision that all land be, er, privately owned, is just standard libertarianism. So then, what are we left with? Hoppe's ... prediction of how people would use their property in a private property order? Why are predictions unlibertarian? Hoppe's apparently personal preference as to how he thinks some people should use their property--or how he might use his own? But is how one uses one's own property anti-libertairian, or authoritarian? I don't see Hoppe arguing for private property to be used to violate anyone's rights, or even to be used in nasty ways. So I don't see what the fuss is about.

Re immigration, my point initially was not to defend Hoppe's view. What I was trying to say was that it is strange for Carson to single him out here and to label him authoritarian. First, Hoppe is an anarchist, and you would think a "center for the stateless society" would realize that he is thus an ally. Hoppe's argument about immigration--which Carson says he was not focusing on--is, as I read it, well, I'll summarize below re the substantive aspect, but it's basically saying that so long as we have a state and immigration policy, which type policy is least bad, that is violates least rights, causes least damage.

But since this is not Carson's objection, then we are left with Hoppe's prediction, or views, or "vision" (a "vision" seems way too vague and non-rigorous a characterization to justify demeaning someone as being "authoritarian", but then I am wary of non-rigorous liberal artsy type metaphors anyway). That is, that Hoppe believes in ultimate freedom of association and right to do what one wants with one's property, and believes that people's preferences for various types of other people woudl lead to various patterns in such property uses that would have implications for how a society might be arrnaged. Hoppe maybe right, or wrong, in his prediction. But who cares? If he's right, how can this be authoritarian, to make a good analysis of the social order under private property? And if his vision and prediction is in error--how is it "authoritarian" to make a mistake in judging how what property use patterns would arise in society?

As to the substantive issue and Gary's comments.

As alluded to above, Hoppe's argument, as I understand it, is that first and foremost there should be no state, and all property should have private owners. In such a society there is no such thing as immigration, really, since there is no nation-state with borders. there are only contiguous tracts of property, each having owners. Roads are private. No one can enter into any property without permission; but no one can stop an owner from inviting whoever he wants onto his property either. Further, there is no state putting up a network of subsidized and "public" roads that makes it easier for people to move next to each other, and enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination in various conclaves or areas. Hoppe believes these things lead to "forced integration" and I think he is right--and this is not authoritarain to realize this; to recognize the effect of state policies in making it easier for people to intermingle nad move together, in removing all property rights to object, etc. (In fact the left-libertarians make a similar argument about roads when they basically say that bc of state-subsidiezed roads no "big" corporations are "really" private; why cannot they see that a similar thing happens with movement of people? The state, in obliterating property rights (the right to exclude from a neighborhood, or in employment, or from a a business, say) combined with making roads public property (free to use; and citizens having no right to control the rules or who gets to use it) combine to force integration onto people.

Now as a good urbane, cosmopolitan libertarian, I personally like and favor (and predict) a high degree of diversity and intermixing. But I do think that most people are more collectivist than I am and do show tendencies of liking to associate, to varying degrees, with "their own kind" (of various types of groupings--racial, ethnic, national, linguistic, religious, socio-economic, cultural, etc.). So some use would be made by property owners of their property rights, to reflect such preferences.

I see nothing whatsoever unlibertarian or (necessarily) "authoritarian" about this. Either the state controls property, or private owners do. That is the real choice.

So back to the argument--Hoppe sees that in a private order there would be no forced integration, no blocking of private immigration, and no forcing of it either. Now according to his views on monarchy--which I tend to agree with--it is the case that democracy is not an unalloyed improvemetn over monarchy. Hoppe explicitly *opposes* monarchy and democracy, but points out many ways in whcih monarchy is better, and closer to what would emerge under a private property order.

One may disagree with his analysis here, but calling it authoritarian is a stretch. But in this analysis, if you picture what woudl happen under monarchy, with respect to immigration, it's reasonable to argue that the outcome here would be closer to what would result under anarchy. So he asks what incentives monarchs would have, etc., and he concludes that there would be limited forced integration; more "quality control" of who can enter (employability, compatibiltiy with local culture etc.). Therefore, his argument is that so long as we don't have anarchy, so long as the state is setting immigration policy, it woudl be better to adopt one that more closely approximates what a monarch would do, than what a democratically run state would do. That the actual rules they would set would be closer to what would result in anarcho-topia, and thus, these set of suboptimal rules cause less damage to the citizens than the ones we have now.

In my A Simple Libertarian Argument Against Unrestricted Immigration and Open Borders, I tried to provide one (possible) argument for an aspect of the basic Hoppean immigration approach. The argument is that the state is not the true owner of public property such as roads. The citizens are. The state ought to abandon it and let it fall back into private ownership, or be re-homesteaded, or auction it off, something. But until it does, we have to view the state as being an illegitimate caretaker nominal-owner of land that is really owned by the taxpayers. Given this, how is it to run the roads? What rules should it set? In my view it's reaosnable to argue that so long as the state does not privatize the roads, it ought to run the roads in a way most beneficial to the victims--that is, adopt rules that make the roads more valuable to the owners--this provides a bit of restitution-in-kind, or diminishes the overall harm done to them. (It's sort of like feeding a prisoner instead of letting him starve. Or like stealing a car and then letting the owners use it on occasion for free, rather than destrying it.) The point is with a resource owned by many people, the state cannot do what they all want, unless it just abandons it. So is it to do nothing, out of paralysis, since it cna't satisfy all? Or should it do what one person out of a million wants? Or should it take into account the preferences of the vast majority of owners, thus at least giving a larger amount of restitution to a larger amount of victims? I mean is htis authoritarian? I don't think so. It's mired in the problems that always plague second-best reasoning, which is why anarchists like Hoppe and I oppose the state in the first place.

So let me turn now to some of Gary's comments.

"I guess I'm unclear just what it means to be "aganst any state immigration controls" and opposed to the "state immigration apparatus" while regarding some controls as acceptable, even if only on a second-best basis."

As an anarchist Hoppe is opposed ot the state even existing, and to its legitimacy; and of course, to every department of the state, including its immigration apparatus.

I dont think he views its controls as "acceptable". He merely has a view as to which second-best rules set by the state's immigration apparatus are better than others. I believe most of us libertarians have opinions on such second-best matters.

" If Hoppe's overall position were consequentialist, that would make sense. But it seems to me that, as a deontological theorist who regards the state as illegitimate, he's going to have a tough time arguing that, for instance, a would-be (illegal) immigrant has any particular reason to obey state-imposed immigration restrictions,"

I suppose the reason is that he will suffer consequences. But Hoppe is opposed ot the state running all this. He simply has a view as to which way the state *ought to* run the borders and roads and other public property, *so long as it* continues to hold it.

"or that, say, a prospective employer should feel obligated to abide by those restrictions."

The employer ought to, like me and Hoppe, want the state to return to him and other true owners the public property such as roads. He also ought to want the roads to be used to maximize value to its owners in the meantime.

"I quite agree with you that the universal appropriation of land "is simply impossible using any rules of appropriation that are not repugnant to libertarian principle.""

Gary, are you saying you think it's unlibertarian to favor universal private ownership of property? That libertarianism requires some common or public property? I think most libertairnas would recognize the notion of "common" property such as air, but they would simply regard it not as property at all. Perhaps you are thinking here of things like easements and so forth--rights of way and so on? But this is just a type of property right and I believe Hoppe is in favor of recognizing such rights--so if you homestead a tract of land you hometead what was unowend--so it might be subject to some kind of prior use-easement if a path across it is establihsed, and so on. These are just details IMO.

"But I take it that Hoppe would disagree—he'd have to do so, or his position, as I understand it, wouldn't make sense."

I believe Hoppe has been explicit about this, ... but this is not common to him. It's a very common libertarian belief.