How Low Can Lew Rockwell Go?: The Case for Open Borders 18

By Kevin Carson

Center for a Stateless Society

For a long time, anarchists and libertarians have mockingly characterized the stereotypical liberal goo-goo response to any vision of a stateless society as “But what about the rooaaads?” But now a couple of libertarians — at least that’s what they call themselves — have made that phrase their own. In response to the seemingly self-evident proposition, from a libertarian standpoint, that people should be able to move freely from place to place regardless of imaginary lines drawn by states on a map, Hans Hermann Hoppe and Lew Rockwell — the gray eminences of the paleo-libertarian world — cry out “But what about the rooaaads?”

In a Mises Circle talk earlier this month (Open Borders Are an Assault on Private Property), appropriately enough in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s stomping grounds, Rockwell restated an argument earlier formulated by Hoppe:

What we believe in are private property rights. No one has “freedom of speech” on my property, since I set the rules, and in the last resort I can expel someone. He can say whatever he likes on his own property, and on the property of anyone who cares to listen to him, but not on mine.

The same principle holds for freedom of movement. Libertarians do not believe in any such principle in the abstract. I do not have the right to wander into your house…. As with “freedom of speech,” private property is the relevant factor here. I can move onto any property I myself own or whose owner wishes to have me. I cannot simply go wherever I like.

From here Rockwell continues to elaborate on an argument whose basic assumptions are — I say without equivocation — mind-numbingly stupid.

Now if all the parcels of land in the whole world were privately owned, the solution to the so-called immigration problem would be evident. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that there would be no immigration problem in the first place. Everyone moving somewhere new would have to have the consent of the owner of that place.

But this starting assumption is nonsense. As both Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Jay Nock argued, the land of the entire world will never be universally privately appropriated by legitimate means. The only way in which every single parcel of land can come under private ownership is through what Oppenheimer called “political appropriation” and Nock called “law-made property.” And it’s no coincidence, as both of them argued, that universal appropriation of the land is a prerequisite for economic exploitation. Only when people are cut off from the possibility of homesteading and subsisting on previously vacant land, and employers are thereby protected against competition from the possibility of self-employment, is it possible to force people to accept employment on whatever disadvantageous terms the property owners see fit to offer.

That says something right there about the kind of people whose wet dream is an entire world without an unowned place to stand on, without some property owner’s permission.

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18 comments

  1. Other than calling Lew a Racist-Homophobic bigot I don’t see any argument FOR open borders. Does Carson really have one?

  2. Well, he argues in the abstract: “Borders are lines on the map drawn by conqueror states, and therefore meaningless. Individuals have a natural right to relocate wherever they want and, by the way, immigration restrictionists are racist, xenophobic, homophobic…”

    The problem I see with this line of thinking is that it gives no consideration to consequential arguments whatsoever.

    If you want to have a Latin American-model class system in North America, Islamic parties competing in European elections, and Chinese colonies in the West that remain loyal to the motherland, and are subsidized by the CCP for the purpose of gaining political influence and eventual hegemony in the West, then by all means, open the borders completely.

    • “The problem I see with this line of thinking is that it gives no consideration to consequential arguments whatsoever. ”

      Why should it/he? The problem of immigration is a state problem not an anarchist problem. The parties you mention would have no more state subsidizing them.

  3. One thing I find really interesting is the way that libertarianism has veered off into its own left/right factions that represent a microcosm of the wider Team Red/Team Blue divide in the broader society.

    On one hand there are rightist libertarians (paleos, neos, brutalists), but there are also leftist libertarians (bleeding hearts, humanitarians, left-libertarians).

    I don’t really consider this to be a bad thing. Obviously, my goal is to develop anarchist and pan-decentralist mass movements to challenge states and ruling classes everywhere. But I don’t really want any of the sects, tribes, or divisions of these to be completely dominant. For example, of all the Isms and political factions mentioned in the ATS statement of purpose, I don’t think I’d want any of these to take over the whole society of any particular nation because I think they all have their weaknesses, limitations, or crypto-authoritarian tendencies (and often not so crypto).

    I’d say the same about the many cultural factions. I wouldn’t really want the Red Team, Blue Team, SJWs, Neo-reactionaries, WNs, BlackLivesMatter, Evangelicals, New Atheists, LaRaza, etc to take over everything. It’s better that power is divided among different cultural factions.

  4. ” “Borders are lines on the map drawn by conqueror states, and therefore meaningless. Individuals have a natural right to relocate wherever they want and, by the way, immigration restrictionists are racist, xenophobic, homophobic…””

    We that is one kind of border, but when my lawn buts up against your lawn is also a border and I would hope your dog does not take a dump on my side of the lawn, I think Mr. Carson would as well.

    “The problem I see with this line of thinking is that it gives no consideration to consequential arguments whatsoever.

    If you want to have a Latin American-model class system in North America, Islamic parties competing in European elections, and Chinese colonies in the West that remain loyal to the motherland, and are subsidized by the CCP for the purpose of gaining political influence and eventual hegemony in the West, then by all means, open the borders completely.”

    Exactly.

    “One thing I find really interesting is the way that libertarianism has veered off into its own left/right factions that represent a microcosm of the wider Team Red/Team Blue divide in the broader society.”

    Yes that is an interesting phenomena. I’ve had a suspension that as hard as Walter Block might protest there is no such think as a plumb-line libertarian, nor could their in principle be. The plumb-line libertarian has too many internal contradictions to really exist. For example a plumb-line libertarian supports Marxist concepts of atheism, feminism, gay marriage and the obsolescence of the family, but still holds on to a robust notion of private property, with out realizing that all of those ‘isms’ were created by Marxists in order to destroy private property. They destroy the foundation for what they believe in. The Paleo-libertarians (team red) I think realize this, especially Hoppe, and try to correct. Team blue libertarians are even more incoherent than plumb-line ones.

    “I’d say the same about the many cultural factions. I wouldn’t really want the Red Team, Blue Team, SJWs, Neo-reactionaries, WNs, BlackLivesMatter, Evangelicals, New Atheists, LaRaza, etc to take over everything. It’s better that power is divided among different cultural factions.”

    Would you think it possible for one culture to be dominant, but wealth and power be decentralized? It seems at least logically possible.

    • Mr, Lewis,

      I suspect that you are correct regarding the impossibility of a plum-line libertarianism in the vein of Block, or what may be called thin libertarianism. That position would be to claim agnosticism on those “marxist concepts” you mentioned and to hold that a legal system based on property rights and non-aggression is the extent of libertarianism. Therefore a (thin) libertarian is one who favors such a legal system.

      The thick libertarian makes the case that it is not possible to remain agnostic on issues of culture since they may prove detrimental to the goal itself. In a debate between Walter Block and Roderick Long, Block essentially said that issues of strategy are secondary to the question of what it is to be a libertarian. But who really cares about “being a libertarian,” the political question is over what sort of society you want. Block would like a society with a libertarian legal system. How do you get there? You need a society with certain people. So it seems that the thick libertarian position (ignoring Longs support for cultural leftism) is more consistent than the plumb line since it acknowledges that it actually matters what sort of people you have living in a society.

      • It seems you are supporting a thick libertarian position based on some kind of conservatism as seen in Hoppe’s Democracy the God that Failed.

        • Mr. Lewis,

          You are quite correct that I favor triple H’s analysis. Can you offer any criticism of this view?

          I am also interested in what you believe to be the foremost “internal contradictions” in the plumb line position. Would you be willing to expound upon that?

          • “I am also interested in what you believe to be the foremost “internal contradictions” in the plumb line position. Would you be willing to expound upon that?”

            The main contradiction with plumb-line libertarians is that they claim to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. As Hoppe points out in Democracy the God that Failed and Richard Pipes points out in Property and Freedom, private property as we know it grew out of patriarchal societies where men sought to ensure their inheritance passed on to their children. Thats why we have all those byzantine infighting in medieval Europe, inheritance mattered. If you destroy the patriarchal family, encourage feminism, discourage women bearing children, destroy any sense of God or tradition you have destroyed all the pillars on which private property rests. For example why does the state seek to discourage people form having children, simple when that couple dies their property has no where to go, no family, no nothing and the state grabs it. The plumb-line libertarians are creating the psychological foundation for communism and the abolition of private property even while they try vainly to justify private property.

            When plumb-line libertarians say “you have no freedom of speech on my propety” that sounds awfully like the liberal thick libertarians saying you have free speech as long as you don’t offend anybody. Sounds pretty similar.

            “You are quite correct that I favor triple H’s analysis. Can you offer any criticism of this view?”

            Hoppe’s views are interesting, but I really don’t buy into his whole uber-freemarket libertarianism. Party because that is somewhat contradictory as well. There have been a long series of conservative critics of capitalism from Justus Möser to GK Chesterton. In many ways capitalism mirros the state in its effort to be the all encompasing force in a society. Just as the state wants to position itself between you and every other relationship, capitalism seeks to place money between you and every other relationship, but are totalizing and both destructive of tradition.

            I think Hoppe’s critiques of Buchanan are weak and down right wrong. I mean Buchanan is not and never was a socialist who supports centrally planned healthcare. See this: http://www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Pat_Buchanan_Welfare_+_Poverty.htm

            Also centralized wealth and prosperity leads to a corrosion of those self same traditional values that made such wealth possible. We the this in the fall of the Roman Republic and is a lesson taught from Moses, to Sallust, to Augustine. Just power corrupts so does wealth. I would prefer middle class society envisioned by Aristotle where little to know one is in grinding poverty, but little to no one is what we might call rich.

            • Mr. Lewis,

              I appreciate your reply and I agree with your assessment of the plumb line’s contradictions.

              As for Hoppe, I would agree that Buchanan does not support socialism or central planning per se, but such a criticism is consistent with Hoppe’s view (as demonstrated in a “Theory of Socialism and Capitalism”) that there is no “third way.” I believe this to be an extrapolation of Mises’s view that all interventions in society necessitate further future interventions creating the road to serfdom. In Hoppe’s view there can be no middle position between a pure free market and interventionism. I do think this holds true for liberal democratic society and while Buchanan may not want central planning, it is the inevitable result of State protectionism.

              In order to have the middle class society without wealth or poverty that you described it seems to me you would need a mechanism that prevents someone from acquiring greater wealth. Either that mechanism is raw power (State) or its a social power (such as a religion or culture that looks unfavorably on great wealth). While what you described may be an appropriate ideal, in the “uber-free market” of Hoppe I could conceive of a society that is kept in check solely by religion,culture, and tradition. Which, interestingly enough, could actually be like the society you describe if the people whom constitute it had that as their ideal.

              Is it plausible to you that the Aristotelean social order you describe could exist with a Hoppean framework?

              *Also could you point me in the direction of Chesterton’s critique of capitalism (I have always enjoyed what I have read by him)?

  5. ” with out realizing that all of those ‘isms’ were created by Marxists in order to destroy private property.”

    It wasn’t just Marxists. All classical libertarians seek to end private property and the non communal patriarchal authoritarian family structure. The Rothbard/Rand retards are blips on the map that only came about in a non revolutionary time of high wealth and recuperation with classical libertarian ideology coming to an end at the start of WW2.

    They simply filled a vacuum. The fact that they are in a shit or get off the pot moment in their history shows this. They are either going in Proudhonian/Tuckerite or more radical directions or they are going in a reactionary nationalist direction. Bob Black’s classic ‘The Libertarian As Conservative’ could not be more on point. The Bohemian deviant element of libertarian orientation is an indelible ingredient. Free undocumented movement simply makes sense in a non state framework.

    • I agree that liberalism of all kinds is poison that will kill any host foolish enough to accept it.

      “They simply filled a vacuum. The fact that they are in a shit or get off the pot moment in their history shows this.”‘

      lol

      “The Bohemian deviant element of libertarian orientation is an indelible ingredient.”

      Agreed.

    • “Is it plausible to you that the Aristotelean social order you describe could exist with a Hoppean framework?”

      It is entirely possible, Hoppe’s covenants seem similar, I’m just not sure it is the best way to ensure such a society.

      This site is not without its problems, but much of what Chesterton said against capitalism can be found here: http://distributism.blogspot.com/

      “Either that mechanism is raw power (State) or its a social power (such as a religion or culture that looks unfavorably on great wealth).”

      I would of course prefer social pressure via education (Aristotle) and religion (the Bible) between the two we could easily arrive at something bucolic as the Amish communities of PA.

  6. ” with out realizing that all of those ‘isms’ were created by Marxists in order to destroy private property.”

    It wasn’t just Marxists. All classical libertarians seek to end private property and the non communal patriarchal authoritarian family structure.

    • I supposed that would be possible in a culture that was homogeneous, but obviously that’s not where we’re at.

      The ancient Greek civilization had a common culture, even if government was done at the city level.

      • Well it has nothing to do with homogeneity as much as it has to do with scale and the functions of society. Much of classical ancient patriarchy and hierarchy are rooted in the functions of those societies. At the most, a libertarian society would have to be no more then a city state with a loose regional identity based on emergent fluctuation of individuals. There is no immigration problem in that context. Immigration as an idea and a problem is a national big state level problem not a libertarian one.

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