Review of Hoppe’s "Immigration And Libertarianism"
First and foremost, let me say that Hans-Hermann Hoppe has made a significant contribution to the cause of liberty. Long after he has passed, and I hope that’s a long time from now, his name will be remembered along with Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Herbert Spencer, Carl Menger, and Lysander Spooner among others.
However those names belong to men, not gods. Each and every one of them was wrong about something.
A major aspect of the liberty mission is to hone our philosophy and perfect our message. Every time a blade is sharpened, some of the metal of that blade is removed. The blade cannot get sharper without tearing away some of the existing metal. This is my goal in writing this article. It is not to destroy any of the great work that Hoppe has done, it is simply to improve the tip of the blade.
Where A is our current situation and B is the condition we desire, my disagreement with Hoppe is in essence, a disagreement on the path to get from point A to point B. My disagreement is not in the details of A nor B. And I would say that my disagreement with Hoppe is also my disagreement with other notables such as Murray Rothbard, Ron Paul, and Walter Block.
They have all expressed the belief that moving from our current situation to the final situation that we all desire, can be achieved through a series of steps, such as deregulation, privatization, elections, and reductions in the size and scope of government. I don’t believe this. I suggest that many if not most libertarians have been fooled into believing that government can be slowly disassembled. The argument often goes something like this; being beaten by a master once a week is better than being beaten five times a week. And being beaten once a month is better than being beaten once a week. For me, this thinking is backwards and damages our chances of freedom. I don’t consider the beatings in the equation. Even if the beatings could be stopped, I will not be satisfied so long as the master lives. My goal is not to reduce the beatings to a tolerable level. My goal is to destroy this Beast that seeks to be the Master of Humanity. If more beatings will result in an awakening to the reality of the nature of the State, then I will embrace the pain and say; “Break out the whip!”
Hoppe, like Walter Block, and like Murray Rothbard before them, makes compelling and logical arguments about how life can improve for all of us, if only libertarian principles can be applied in a consistent manner, to specific hot button issues. Lately Hoppe has taken on the issue of immigration in his article titled “Immigration and Libertarianism”. In that article Hoppe attempts to show how libertarian principles can be applied to the existing structure of government resulting in a more honest and economically viable immigration policy. When I compare the existing policies, as applied by western governments, with those proposed by Hoppe, I am forced by his shear logic, to agree. Hoppe’s suggestions on immigration would be a vast improvement to society, and would surely improve the lives of millions of people. In doing so, Hoppe’s proposed immigration policies would make government far more palatable to the masses.
At this point I’m reminded of the brilliant but flawed, Milton Friedman. Back in the 1940’s the US government tax collectors relied on a clumsy system that depended on Americans paying their entire year’s taxes on one day. This was a painful day when the master’s whip was glaringly obvious, as millions of Americans had to write a single check for their entire year’s income tax. Milton Friedman was part of a team of economists that invented the system we have now, where the tax is taken slowly over the course of the year through a payroll withholding system that becomes almost invisible and practically painless. Then on that wonderful day that the taxes are due, most Americans actually get a dribble of money back from the government. How could a beating be more comfortable? Yet it remains a beating.
Friedman’s flaw, which effected his reasoning over and over, was that he looked at a problem then solved that problem. He did this without considering the simple fact that his solution helped a small gang of thieves continue their quest of the domination of humanity by making their whip sting less.
Now to address the flaws in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s article, Immigration and Libertarianism: Beyond what I have pointed out, namely that Hoppe starts with a flawed system based on aggression and domination, and then points out a way to make that flawed system work better, Hoppe also makes some mistakes.
The first Paragraph sets up a false dichotomy by placing everyone who disagrees with Hoppe on immigration as a “left-libertarian”. Just to be clear, there is no way that I nor any of the libertarian anarchists that I hang out with, should be described as “left-libertarians”. The only thing “left” about me is my left-eye dominant vision and therefore my left handed pistol shooting style. Further Hoppe claims that somehow what he calls “free and non-discriminatory immigration” is “Viagra to the State”. This is an odd claim seeing that we have such blaring examples of overbearing governments depending on powerful walls to, at first, keep out the immigrants. But when the truth is revealed it turns out the walls serve to keep the State’s slaves from escaping.
Nero used the city walls of Rome to divide and corral the poor, then he burned them alive and stole their land for his new palace.
Hadrian’s Wall was first billed as protection from the Picts, but later used to tax commerce and travel.
The Great Wall of China has a similar story to Hadrian’s Wall.
The Iron Curtain was poorly billed as protection, but was obviously built to keep the slaves inside.
The US/Mexican border is nothing more than an updated Hadrian’s Wall with a coming metamorphosis to an Iron Curtain.
On the other hand, migration of people has been a regular part of the human experience, including the time before the State existed, and in no way can be tied to the rise of the State nor to its expansion. The most extensive expansion of government power has come during the last 120 years, while western governments tried franticly to control and regulate immigration. Some government immigration policies have been used by some government actors for their personal and political gain. But that in no way indicates that so called “free and non-discriminatory immigration” equates to “Viagra to the State”. Simply stated, it does not follow. So then, in this first paragraph of Hoppe’s article we have both a false dichotomy and a non-sequitur.
Paragraph 2 states:
“But on what grounds should there be a right to un-restricted, “free” immigration? No one has a right to move to a place already occupied by someone else, unless he has been invited by the present occupant. And if all places are already occupied, all migration is migration by invitation only. A right to “free” immigration exists only for virgin country, for the open frontier.”
One chunk at a time:
“But on what grounds should there be a right to un-restricted, “free” immigration?” The answer to this question is that all rights are based on the right to own property. Lets not allow Hoppe to distract the conversation with an esoteric question based on positive rights. If you’re reading Hoppe you likely know the libertarian theory of rights and ownership. That being the case, don’t be distracted by this puff of smoke.
Once Hoppe has used this sleight-of-hand to distract us, he presents a terribly flawed statement based on the idea that governments own land and government owned land is “occupied” by the fact that governments own it. This is circular logic. The problem is that under libertarian rights and ownership, government, being a non-person, can’t own anything. The second half of Hoppe’s flaw is that, in the case of the US government, there are nearly 400 million acres in the 19 western states, that the Washington DC thieves claim to own. That’s more than a million acres per man, woman, and child living in the borders of the US. Or think of it like this; there is enough government land in the western US to give almost half a million acres to every occupant of Europe without taking one inch of land from an existing resident of the US. Even in Europe where governments own relatively little or no land, no libertarian that I know is arguing that immigrants moving into Europe should be able to just take the land of those already in Europe. Hoppe’s statement can only be taken as logical if governments can own property and if a collective has the right to tell individuals who they can and can’t hire, house, and sell property to.
The third paragraph starts with the classic red flag; “There are only two ways of trying to get around this conclusion…” This is the hallmark of a false dichotomy. This paragraph is an attempt to distract the reader with the old “but the Indians were here first” argument. So again, this is simply a distraction from the conversation. Due to my less-than-polite nature, I usually respond to statements like this with something like; “There are two types of people. Those who use false dichotomies in arguments and pudding cups.” Again, I reject false dichotomies and I refuse to be distracted by smoke and mirrors.
The fourth paragraph is a very odd statement for an an-cap libertarian to make. It’s really more suited for convincing a small-government Republican of your argument.
“The second possible way out is to claim that all so-called public property – the property controlled by local, regional or central government – is akin to open frontier, with free and unrestricted access. Yet this is certainly erroneous. From the fact that government property is illegitimate because it is based on prior expropriations, it does not follow that it is un-owned and free-for-all. It has been funded through local, regional, national or federal tax payments, and it is the payers of these taxes, then, and no one else, who are the legitimate owners of all public property. They cannot exercise their right – that right has been arrogated by the State – but they are the legitimate owners.”
Where Hoppe says; “It has been funded through local, regional, national or federal tax payments, and it is the payers of these taxes, then, and no one else, who are the legitimate owners of all public property.” I would ask two questions. Question one; how were millions of acres of bare desert and forest lands “funded”? To restate that question, what “funding” is required for hundreds of millions of acres to sit untouched and unoccupied? My second question; if tax payers own public land because the US government killed or moved the previous occupants, do American tax payers also own the land bombed and irradiated by that same government in other lands? So can I rightfully, under Hoppe’s “libertarianism” own part of Dresden Germany, or does this only work where Hoppe says it works?
Hoppe’s conclusion is based on collectivism, that being the notion that people who pay taxes have ownership in government, and therefore they have ownership in government property. If this notion is true, all aspects of an-cap thought are flawed and governments are legitimate, because all rights are based on ownership.
Look at it this way; if a group of people who call themselves “the US government” take your great grandfather’s money against his will, then use that money to kill members of another group of people who call themselves “the Mexican government”, then those two groups settle their fight, and this all happens 100 years before you were born, what gives you the right to posses land that one of these groups took from the other? You didn’t pay taxes 100 years before you were born. By libertarian property rights theory, neither government has any right to the land, much less the grandchild of a person who was robbed to pay for a war. All western land claimed by the US government is open for homesteading, according to libertarian property rights theory. Government land claims are no more legitimate now than when kings and popes made the same claims in the days of John Loche.
Try it this way; what if a gang of thieves robbed you of $100, then the gang went to a bar and ordered a round of drinks for all the patrons at the bar, spending a total of $100. Neither the bartender nor the other patrons knew where the money came from. Could your grandson demand a $100 share in the bars’ business years after you died and after all the original thieves and patrons and the bartender died? Would your grandson have the right to hunt down the grandchild of every patron of the bar and demand the price of a drink? Of course not. Because there is no such thing as collective guilt. The only people responsible for robbing you, and therefore restitution, were the original thieves. If there is no collective guilt, how can there be collective property ownership based on theft and coercion, and how can that be inherited?
The fifth paragraph begins with another misdirection. Hoppe writes; “In a world where all places are privately owned, the immigration problem vanishes. There exists no right to immigration. There only exists the right to trade, buy or rent various places.” This statement assumes a world that doesn’t presently exist. It also distorts the concept of immigration and assumes immigration as happening when real estate is removed from the ownership of one person and given somehow to another. In the real world, immigration generally means a person leaves the geographical area where they previously lived and travel to another place, usually for economic reasons. Once in the new area they seek a method of survival, be that work or assistance from someone else. Presently the only thing standing in the way of this happening naturally, as it has for millions of years, is coercive governments and the bigotry and fears of those who support coercive governments. Immigrants into an economically more prosperous area, assuming no interference by governments, typically move into low income areas where they help each other survive while filling the lower paying jobs. After a few generations they typically advance economically until they can begin buying land and opening businesses. Without coercive government interfering, immigrants are a positive addition to the economy, until the market changes and it becomes more suitable to immigrate to a different area. This process takes nothing from the existing populace, but adds to the economy by providing cheep labor and a wider consumer base.
Hoppe continues, “…Yet what about immigration in the real world with public property administered by local, regional or central State-governments?
First off: What would immigration policies be like if the State would, as it is supposed to do, act as a trustee of the taxpayer-owners’ public property? What about immigration if the State acted like the manager of the community property jointly owned and funded by the members of a housing association or gated community?”
To state this question is akin to asking; “If butterflies farted gumdrops and if unicorns sprang from lollypops, what would the price of tea be in Cleveland?”
Hoppe’s statement assumes that the State “is suppose to do” things it simply doesn’t and can’t do. And so we come to the true flaw in Hoppe’s argument. Hoppe is attempting to outline an imaginary world where government acts the way people hope and believe it to act, rather than understanding the nature of government and realizing that a tiger can’t change his stripes and a leopard can’t change his spots. Neither can a government function outside of its nature. Government is a collection of thieves, always bound by their nature, to rob and coerce the maximum amount that they can get away with, before their host population catches on and throws them out. And the State is the silly religious belief that these people who call themselves “government” have the right to continue. An aspect of this silly religion is that if government is flawed in the execution of its “duties”, it just needs some input from Great Men to get it back on track.
Then it will be right as rain, and butterflies can go back to farting gumdrops. On a short term scale, the crime gangs who call themselves “government” will use immigration, or any other hot-button issue, in any way they can to grab more loot and more power. That is an aspect of the nature of power-hungry thieves. It cannot and will not change.
With the nature of government better understood, one should have a look at the nature of this religion I call the State. The State is like a virus of the mind. It can only replicate itself in the body of a host and it will adapt in any way it needs to survive. Unlike a virus which sometimes kills it host by happenstance, it is my contention that the State actively seeks to kill its host. I contend the purpose of the State is to live as long as possible, infect every human mind, and ultimately kill every human. However you believe humanity came to be here on this earth, the State is the enemy of that god or evolutionary process. Being a theist, I believe God made us. I believe humans, in rebellion to God, created the State to take God’s place as Law Giver. Therefore I believe anything government does is based on evil, and any support of the idea of the State is blasphemous. Theorizing a way government can act responsibly is silly at best, and dangerous the rest of the time.
You may be asking some questions. For example; if deregulation, privatization, elections, and reductions in the size and scope of government only make slavery more comfortable and actually empower tyranny, what can be done? Is all lost?
To this I would answer, no. All is not lost.
At this point in my article I have expended over 3000 words. That in mind, I will spare the reader the burden of yet another 3000 words describing the future, where governments will further expand and consume one another, until there is perhaps somewhere from one to five government left, brutally fighting for dominance. And as these monsters thrash about slaughtering at will, humanity has but one hope.
Coercive governments continue because people have faith in their god, the State. Faith in the State continues so long as people believe the lies of government. As the lies of government become thinner and thinner, and as government becomes more and more oppressive, more people will see government for what it really is; a gang of thieves and nothing more. As more eyes open to this truth, faith in the State will crumble. At some point the feet and legs of the idol won’t be able to support the weight of its bloated body, and Colossus will fall, smashing all who are near by. In the final stages of government, as more and more people remove their support, and faith in the State falters on a large scale, desperation will drive the oppressors to cruel and foolish actions. Literally billions of people will pay the price of government, as the State consumes at least a third of humanity. The destruction will threaten the future of our species.
The good news is; I believe in the power of the market. I believe that if enough people want something, the market will provide it. And the market is people. So long as people want a coercive gang of thieves constantly feeding on humanity, there will be a coercive gang of thieves feeding on humanity. But markets shift, and demand is based on human desires. When enough people desire freedom, no government can stop them.
Government prohibitions can only be temporary, and are never successful. We are freedom pushers in the black market, selling what government has forbidden. It is our job to get as many freedom addicts as possible, so that the demand for freedom exceeds governments ability to prohibit it. It is not our job to beg government for permission. Neither is it profitable for us to help government be more palatable. It is our job to set up shop under the nose of authority, and use our existing liberty as a tool to gain as many freedom addicts as possible. It is our job to subvert authority at every turn. It is our job to light the fires of desire in humanity, and blow on the flames until the demand for freedom exceeds government’s ability to prohibit it, and the market will meet that demand. And faith in the State will go the way of faith in Helios, and Colossus will crumble to the ground. Then and only then, we will be free.
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