Thursday, May 26, 2016

Response to a Non-Response

 "When you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation."
-Don Draper, Mad Men

I'd like to thank Jacob Hornberger for his reply to my piece. I may sympathize with Hornberger's ideal, but he hasn't convinced me this practice is fruitful in a Statist world.
Maybe I wasn’t very clear, despite my clarity. I’m not in favor of government borders, open borders, mixed borders, closed borders or sealed borders. I see problems with all of them in a world of Statism. Hornberger argues with me as if I've firmly planted my feet in the "Closed Borders" camp.
Thus, Flag is right when he writes, “Removing the State from social and economic activity is the only libertarian position.” But that’s precisely what the removal of immigration controls does — it removes the state from social and economic activity involving commerce across international borders.
What are borders and immigration policy if not a creation of the State, for the State? Freedom didn't draw these lines for the states behalf. Why expect the State to work on Freedom's behalf? Will any border policy be decided on anything that couldn't achieve desired and planned results? Every other mechanism of the State operates with State interests, but there's an expectation that a Federal border will operate as a separate entity from the Federal Government.

But Flag is wrong when he states that our aim as libertarians should be “decentralization.” Perish that thought!
Decentralization gives us freedom of choice. This freedom doesn't have to be perfect liberty in all places; This isn't possible, but we'd have an avenue to aim for it. He does say to perish that thought. To what ends? Further centralization? Maintaining current centralization? A decentralized world could yield Hornberger the opportunity to put his ideas on migration and borders into practice. But, disregard. Let's perish those thoughts.
Why isn’t Flag condemning all of them, even as he condemns the state in general? Why refuse to condemn immigration tyranny or any other tyranny? If I wrote an article condemning drug laws, would Flag praise the “otherwise sound libertarian arguments” in the piece but then “disagree with [my] overall message” calling for drug legalization?
Hornberger doesn't address what I say. He shifts course to talk about what I didn't say. Imagine: "Hornberger didn't talk about immigrants from the Middle East raping and attacking Germans. Why refuse to condemn rape tyranny over any other tyranny?"

I don’t understand why he wouldn’t come down with a full-throated, unconditional support of open borders. There are a number of anti-freedom things that the government is doing that both anarchists and limited government advocates do not hesitate to condemn — the drug war, Social Security, foreign interventionism — indeed, the entire welfare-warfare state gamut of socialist, interventionist, and imperialist programs.

What if I did talk about even some of these things without shifting the conversation? After all, immigration doesn't exist in a vacuum. How does it effect all, or any of these? How high would taxes have to go to fund entitlements for all of these when hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands more partake? Why not a million more recipients? Hornberger is asserting a position that favors completely open migration into a welfare state, after all. I got curious, and wondered if Hornberger has addressed this problem. Fortunately, he has - sort of. He cites the book “Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them” in a piece documenting his experience at The Pomona College debate on Immigration. Hornberger insists the author of this book dispels the myths about the costs of immigration. Hornberger cites the book, but says nothing of it's contents. Another time, I might read it and offer a critique.

Who is Phillipe Legrain, author of this piece that should alleviate all concerns? I’ve never heard this name invoked in libertarian discussion.  He's a visiting fellow of the London School of Economics, which boasts the stellar libertarian credentials of being founded by the Fabian Socialists. Well, at least this school gave us Hayek (I know, but I'll take what I can get.). Further reading on Phillipe Legrain reveals that he’s been an economic advisor in EU circles, the WTO, and in favor of British participation in the EU.

Hornberger is able to put a person with this background on a pedestal in defense of a "libertarian" position, with a straight face.  Were there no libertarians available to champion this cause?

Not surprisingly, Flag chose to ignore the hypothetical I posed many years ago, and which I restated in my article, which exposes the fatal flaw in the pro-immigration control paradigm.
Much less surprisingly, at this point I’d have to wonder if Hornberger read the entirety of my writing or skimmed and cherry picked a few points that he could argue with easy and well-practiced answers. I'd encourage him to give the beginning and the end of my writing at least a glance.

Is his hypothetical scenario of dinner invitations the practice behind immigration and resettlement of any variety? Everyone just wanted to go to Uncle Ted’s for ribs, potato salad, and a beer?

Flag also takes me to task for not addressing the refugee crisis in Europe. Maybe my failure to do so was because the focus of the article was on only one particular aspect of the immigration controversy — i.e., that there is only one position in libertarianism on immigration rather than two contradictory positions.

At least now, Hornberger admits his very important, years old, tried and true hypothetical focuses on one aspect of what is a very large subject. Earlier, he had insinuated that I ignored this hypothetical to my own chagrin, and it was impossible to not openly embrace all immigration everywhere based on it's irrefutable libertarian applications. But now that this theory is put to the test in the real world, we can move on.

Having said that, however, as I have written before, yes, people in the Middle East have the absolute right to flee the chaos, death, and destruction that the U.S. death machine has wreaked in the Middle East. They have a right to seek to preserve their lives and to pursue happiness by moving to other places. The fact that people are dying on the high seas trying to escape the horror is a direct consequence of both foreign interventionism and immigration controls.
...  Well, go on. The story isn't over, what happened next? What's happening right now? The story stops when his position gets a crash course. Make it an  R-Rated flick, and press on. Too late, the credits are rolling and there's no sequel on the horizon. The Director's Cut might be a little more forthcoming. There's no sincere critique to make without addressing the balance of the situation described.

Hornberger gets at least one thing right in his piece, this is a foreign policy problem conducted and operated by the State, nothing to do with freedom.  I won't be filling any holes in his version of the story. Ideally, Hornberger will do that on his own when he's done dancing around them.


I was curious if there was some unseen gem somewhere in the camp that was least likely to agree with me, thus my challenge to Hornberger.

Hornberger's efforts had little to do with defending his position, and more to do with addressing little of what I said while trying his darnedest to make it look like he was. He assigned me stances to make the comfort of his position easy.

I can only conclude that there's no good libertarian answer to the issue of borders and immigration in a world of Statism whatsoever. A move to preserve or ignite liberty in either direction creates more obstacles or violations to liberty elsewhere. This is no fault or burden of freedom, it is a fault and burden of Statism and centralization.

I appreciate Jacob Hornberger participating in the dialogue with what is essentially an anonymous person. It's not hard to imagine all of us experiencing Hornberger's theory first hand soon enough. Let's hope not, but if so maybe we can regroup when that day comes and talk about the results.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hornberger: Right, but still Wrong

Some time ago, shortly after Bionic Mosquito refuted one of the first articles to try and dismantle his stance on borders, I could only conclude that the problems described in this debate are problems that libertarian theory doesn't address, because they'd likely not be a problem in a libertarian world.

I read Hornberger's article in its entirety - I can't see anything that necessarily flies in the face of Libertarianism. But again, he makes the assumption that being against open borders in a world where the state controls the border means that you favor not just closed, but sealed borders in this same world. I'm going to conveniently ignore, for Hornberger's sake, he did not mention Germany or Europe at all in his defense. I'll also conveniently ignore that he assumes anyone concerned with a flood gate border, being directed by the Federal Government, is in the same camp of “Liberventionists”. I’ll also ignore that nobody is talking about an issue of anyone being invited over for dinner on private property with private resources, surrendered voluntarily in an act of love for your fellow man.

I guess I didn’t ignore it after all.

There's common ground in here somewhere that advances the conversation - to the point that it dead ends, which I can't say that it hasn't already. We seem to continue in circular maneuvers, with the same arguments. Some are sound, some assume stances that never were. Some make exceptions for more State action and pass this as core planks of Libertarianism.
What is seldom addressed, is the common factor in all arguments – State action.

If the libertarian position is that a free market (or even, the lack of a state) operates best, why do elements of the conversation lend an endorsement to one State border policy or the other? Many of us seem to have reached this conclusion already over the past several months.

In any other social or economic arena, when have we applauded State Action A or B? Or C?

Do we endorse Romneycare over Obamacare? Or Hillarycare? Is MediCare the best libertarian alternative to any of these? What about the Canadian model? Should we consider the Sanders plan?

I've yet to hear a compelling argument in favor of any of these from the libertarian view. The proper libertarian position, most commonly advocated and rightfully so, is that Government is grossly incompetent at best, or operates with the interests of the State in mind - at its worst. Which of these two, or somewhere in between these two polarities, is what is happening in Europe right now? I couldn't say with absolute confidence, and neither could Hornberger (How could he? He seems to be looking in the opposite direction.).

This is why, despite the otherwise sound libertarian arguments in Hornberger's piece, I disagree with his overall message, summarized in the title of his article. Open borders aren’t the proper libertarian position at all. Closed borders isn't a proper position either. Removing the State from social and economic activity is the only libertarian position. Our aim should be, and likely is, decentralization.

We cannot give Libertarian traits to the United States Federal Government. At very few points in its history has the United States held a libertarian position. It’s existence and modus operandi are not libertarian. I’m willing to accept the belief that, though a country based on enterprise for quite some time, has never been libertarian in practice.

An encompassing state will have an encompassing policy. As the borders we know today are a creation of the state, there will never be a libertarian solution to state borders - or county borders, or city borders. If things continue down the path we're on today, it's not hard to imagine the debate evolving to a discourse about how government will split our property to make room for additional serfs to fund the evil it perpetrates.

A libertarian would object to this outright, as I’d hope libertarians still believe the State operates in its own interests with illicit funding.

If we could imagine a libertarian application to state borders in our reality, we could just as well assume a justification for implementing libertarian stances on other state interventions. I hear no (serious) libertarian justifications on applying Libertarian ideas to execution of the war in the middle east, domestic surveillance, gun control, or how best to select who gets what corporate subsidy. There is no libertarian stance to any of these - outside of firmly stating there is no justification for the state to make these decisions with resources and labor that have been pillaged from all of us.

I'm no fool – market based decisions on the matter will not be likely as long as the State stands. As long as it stands, it will manage its border policy for its own ends. If the influx of migrants ends up working against a State agenda, the borders will be closed. And of course, in the reverse - as it is in many westernized countries today.

However, like the rest of our woes - only when we remove the state from the equation can we find the libertarian solution. The best we can hope for, today, in the reality we are actively present in, is that there are fewer excuses with which to dismantle our liberty. What libertarian could object to such an ideal?

I object to the State sealing borders in practice – I object to the state itself as it is today. A libertarian would be hard pressed to ignore foreseeable (or even unforeseeable) evils of the state – by the State directing refugees into our fold by decree, complete with quotas on a specific demographic.  Then further, subsidizing their relocation and assimilation.

This all would assume the subjects of objection were even interested in productive participation, at that.

I see no libertarian merit to supporting such an activity. My argument would be much the same if they sought to inhibit market participants from crossing borders to engage in commerce, or even to visit a friend for dinner. It’s outrageous to assume the State could make sincere and educated endorsements or denials on individuals in either scenario.

I challenge the camp that's been dubbed "Open Borders Libertarians" to refute this on libertarian grounds. There is no libertarian application to a mechanism of the state.

I would especially welcome a reply from Jacob Hornberger.

*Editted due to some pretty gross formatting errors.

Addendum 5/23:

I'd like to thank Jacob Hornberger for taking the time to reply to my rebuttal. I'll be posting a response sometime this week.