Why is Immigration a “Contentious Issue in Classical Liberalism”?

“Contentious Issues in Classical Liberalism” was the theme of this year’s Mont Pelerin Society.  This gave me a chance to explore a major puzzle: Sociologically, immigration clearly deserves to be on the agenda.  After all, many people otherwise sympathetic to human freedom and free markets support even more immigration restrictions than we already have.  Intellectually, however, it’s hard to see why.

The plot thickens when you notice that pro-freedom immigration skeptics routinely use arguments that almost never use in any other context, starting with:

1. Collective ownership.  Yes, if countries are the collective property of their citizens, then they have a right to regulate immigration.  But this also implies nations’ right to regulate everything else, too!  You can’t live on my land without my consent, but neither can you open a store on my land without my consent, or even hire someone to work on my land for less than the minimum wage without my consent.

2. Collective guilt.  Yes, if e.g. foreign Muslims are collectively guilty for whatever wrongs foreign Muslims have done in the past, then immigration restrictions against Muslims would be justified.  But this also implies that other people can legitimately hold us collectively guilty for whatever wrongs “we’ve” done in the past.  So affirmative action, reparations for slavery and colonialism, returning land to American Indians, and much more are suddenly on the agenda.

3. Shocking anecdotes.  Yes, if we ought to take shocking anecdotes seriously, then any awful immigrant action on CNN justifies a major policy response.  But this also implies that shocking anecdotes about poverty, health care, worker safety, and the environment on CNN also justify major policy responses.

4. Popular support.  Yes, if “This is what citizens want, and they’re entitled to get their way,” then immigration restrictions easily pass muster.  But so do virtually all the policies classical liberals traditionally oppose, starting with protectionism and a bunch of price controls.

Unless you’re going to abandon the whole classical liberal framework, basic intellectual hygiene requires you to excise any argument along these lines.  What remains?  Only arguments claiming that the consequences of immigration are awful enough to overcome the standard classical liberal presumption against government action.

How does that approach fare?  See my full presentation to find out.  Bonus: A bunch of Zach Weinersmith cartoons!

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A “State” is a Failed Society

I’ve seen various places referred to as “failed states”– Somalia being a frequent example. The term is used in an attempt to insult.

The most insulting part is that anyone tolerates those trying to impose a state on them, or that anyone is dumb (or evil) enough to do it to themselves.

If you have a state, you’ve already failed. You’ve failed to find voluntary ways to live among other humans and have decided you’re going to cheat.

A state is a failed society.

To fail at something which is unnecessary is a tragedy which can bring disaster where none was inevitable before.

Yes, a failed state can be deadly. Any failure can be.

If a dishonest surgeon performs an unnecessary heart transplant on a patient, and it fails, the patient will die. Even if it doesn’t “fail”, it was a really bad idea. The patient has been harmed whether he realizes it or not. The heart transplant was not a good idea, nor was the one performing it a good guy trying to help.

A state is the same. It’s unnecessary and harmful– even if it doesn’t fail. The state is antisocial; based on theft and aggression. It is your enemy. There will be consequences when it fails.  And it will fail eventually. They all do.

And when it fails, tragedy is likely. Once you’ve crippled a population– trained them out of responsibility, competence, independence, and ethics– by imposing a state on them, how do you expect them to form a functional society if your state fails? You’ve done the damage; own it.

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Gabor Mate: The Consequences of Stressed Parenting (1h19m)

This episode features a talk by Canadian physician and addiction expert Gabor Mate from 2012. He talks about the link between stressed parenting and the preponderance of childhood disorders like ADHD, autism and oppositional defiant disorder. Purchase books by Gabor Mate on Amazon here.

Listen To This Episode (1h19m, mp3, 64kbps)

Subscribe via RSS here, or in any podcast app by searching for “voluntaryist voices”. Support the podcast at Patreon.com/evc or PayPal.me/everythingvoluntary.

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No Country for Old Men

Nobody asked but …

I’m reading The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness by John Prados.  The narrative references a CIA operative who admired Tommy Lee Jones, particularly his character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, in the movie, No Country for Old Men.  She (the spy) builds her motto on something the Sheriff said, I paraphrase: You can’t stop what’s coming, but you’ve got to try.  I would recast that to say, one has to deal with all of the consequences for all choices one has made.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Sundowner

Nobody asked but …

When I was below the age of five, I was not expected to do physically demanding things, such as hod carrying or bicycle riding.  I was not required to do things that required experience or problem solving skills.  I was not held responsible for things that were assigned competence levels.  Some of these institutional hold harmless agreements stayed in place until my voice changed, or I reached 16 years of age, then 18, then 21.  I had to reach 35 to be held out of selective service eligibility, or to serve as POTUS.  Lastly, I ran into a smattering of bedraggled annualizations which marked my being eligible for lifelong learning, senior discounts, early retirement, regular retirement, extended retirement, and various age-related, statist benefit programs.

Maybe when we become superannuated, we should have reversed our trajectory a la Benjamin Button.  Our competencies are not so easily misperceived when we are wet behind the ears.  Although the spirit is still willing, the body becomes weaker everyday … and the spirit begins to follow.  I am getting smaller.  I am getting weaker.  I am more susceptible to adversity.  I am more weary of the constraints that other generations impose — see TSA, the cartelization of education, and air travel in general.

Why is there not a lessening of responsibility as we re-approach infantility?  Why?  The arrow of time has not been reversed.  Consequences at time B must be arising from human action at time A.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Obsolescence

Nobody asked but …

One of the frictions that promotes change is obsolescence.  I have looked, this morning, at a drone photo of Hong Kong.  As a species blessed (cursed?) with rational problem solving skills, we seem at the same time to lack problem avoidance skills.  In Hong Kong the traditional problem solving algorithm will eventually kill Hong Kong.  There are too many people.  The solution that becomes a new problem is effected by people doing what Ludwig von Mises says they will do — seek to avoid unease.  Too many people in Hong Kong have an irrational need to remain in Hong Kong.  The unease they seek to avoid is the fear of living apart from Hong Kong.  The natural response, in any urbanization movement, is to act together in ways that will increase density.  Taller buildings increase the density of people who can live in them, while smaller compartments on each level increase the density of people who can live on each level.  Since the invention of multistory buildings, the answer to the problem of population has been to go up and to squeeze in.

Looking at Hong Kong, more than anyplace else, we can see a logical conclusion to the obsolecence algorithm.  Every available segment of verticality will be absorbed.  Horizontal shortcuts will enweb the complex, making it a hive.  Skyscrapers will approach the limits of structural capacity.  People will approach survival occupying only personal space-time.  But that’s enough speculation — we don’t want to gaze upon the Medusa.  The good news is as follows:

  • Misean behavior takes on infinite forms, paths, and interlocking consequences.
  • There are infinite mixtures of events and trends.
  • The requirement that human action arises from unease is not a stricture but an enabling prerequisite.  Anything, real or imaginary, that generates in any experience a feeling of unease will generate behavior hoped to reduce the unease.

Make no mistake.  This is not a description of a Leibnizian best-of-all-possible-worlds.  Hong Kong is a demonstration of the absurdity that will arise from a set of variables — the humanity in Hong Kong keeps fighting the battle of urbanization without asking do we need to change the pattern.  The pattern is obsolete.  A larger pattern applies — that which will end, will end.

— Kilgore Forelle

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