15 Oct 2015

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

Humor 61 Comments

Sorry blogging has been so sparse lately, but Tom Woods is a slave driver.

In the meantime, here are three quotes from economists I read regularly, and my reactions.

==> Alex Tabarrok, in his case for open borders: “What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity?”

My response: At face value, that can only mean that no moral person can ever use wires, walls, or weapons to deter other people, period. But I think Alex is perfectly fine with the owners of banks using wires, walls, and weapons to prevent people from exercising their freedom of movement and seizing some opportunity.

I’m not quibbling over words. See here for why I think the “Open Borders” guys have picked the wrong slogan (and accompanying rhetoric), even though we agree 99% on the issue.


==> Scott Sumner writes: “The passivity of real world central banks should not lead us to doubt what a really determined monopoly producer of intrinsically worthless fiat money can do, if sufficiently determined.”

My comment: To be clear, Scott is writing the above in support of more central bank action. He is telling the coach to put him in the game, so he’ll debase the currency.


==> Tyler Cowen, on the new Matt Damon movie: “(Planets, by the way, create erotic bonds stronger than those of actual marriages.)”

My comment: I can’t decide if my favorite part of this sentence is the “by the way” or the parentheses.

61 Responses to “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm”

  1. Alex Tabarrok says:

    “What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity?”

    My response: At face value, that can only mean that no moral person can ever use wires, walls, or weapons to deter other people, period.

    What? Surely, you are aware of some moral theories which say otherwise?

    • Transformer says:

      I think it is the fact that Bob is aware of some moral theories which say otherwise that led him to make his comment, isn’t’ it ?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      I think Bob is saying that the same arguments which say that national borders violate people’s freedom of movement can equally well be used to show that property lines violate people’s freedom of movement.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        I don’t think that’s what Bob meant.

        He meant that walls, not necessarily “national” walls, are not inherently immoral, as they can be used to defend good people from bad people. Tabarrok did not qualify his statement, so taken at face value it is a condemnation of all walls as such.

        Murphy would not say that the arguments which show national walls violate people’s freedom of movement, are the same arguments as, or can be used as arguments for, showing that all property lines violate people’s freedom of movement. This is because Murphy believes national walls really do violate people’s movements, but those arguments he uses are not capable of proving private property lines also violate people’s freedom of movement, because it is precisely private property lines that Murphy is using to show national borders are a violation.

        The part where you said “the same arguments”, is the wrong part. Murphy was only talking about Tabarrok’s statement taken at face value.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Surely, Alex, YOU must have been aware such theories existed when you wrote the nonsense that Bob quoted. So why in the world did you write it?

      • Alex Tabarrok says:

        This is bizarre. I asked a question. How can that be nonsense? Bob’s statement just doesn’t follow from what I said. NOT AT ALL. Clearly there are moral theories which say some types of crime may be punished by prison. From the context the question is asking about national borders. The theories that justify prison for some crimes do not justify national borders. Agreed?

        • Craw says:

          This question?
          “What? Surely, you are aware of some moral theories which say otherwise?”
          That’s in the form of a question I grant you. Can you see it’s really a statement not a question?

  2. guest says:

    “… I think the “Open Borders” guys have picked the wrong slogan (and accompanying rhetoric), even though we agree 99% on the issue.”

    So true.

    Coming to libertarianism from the Right Wing, I can say that we are definitely not trying to prevent people from moving to opportunity that they’re entitled to pursue.

    From our perspective, the U.S. is collectively owned by the people of the several states, and as such we have the right to prevent anyone from entering “our property” – and for *any* reason, including racism.

    (The vast majority of us are not racists, though. We simply don’t want socialists on our property; A lot of those come from our southern border, which is why we single out Mexicans. But Shariah-loving Arabs we want to keep out, as well, and for the same reason.)

    So, our concept of property rights is fairly sound, it’s just that we err in our belief that something can be collectively owned.

    We also don’t understand Comparative Advantage very well, so we mistakenly believe that if masses of foreigners get employed here that it will destroy “our economy”, as if American consumers have a duty to buy from American producers. We don’t see the disconnect that such a view entails telling Americans what they may, or may not, spend their money on, which is totalitarian.

    • Z says:

      I don’t know if that’s the reason right libertarians are not believers of open borders. I recall reading an article by Stephen Kinsella on LRC where he said it was a form of restitution since we have a welfare state at the moment. Something along those lines.

      • guest says:

        To be clear, I was speaking from the perspective of a Right Wing Conservative, above.

        I imagine that right libertarians would be believers of open borders so long as no individuals’ property rights were being violated.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “He is telling the coach to put him in the game, so he’ll debase the currency.”

    Here’s something that puzzles me… with QE3 the dollar went up instead of down. How can this be explained? Increase perceived as temporary by the public?

    • Major.Freedom says:

      No, with QE3 the dollar went down.

      Other factors led to a temporal rise. QE3 made that rise less than it otherwise would have been. That is the “down” from QE3.

      We don’t need to see a temporal decline in a currency before we conclude QE devalues a currency.

      It would be like saying it is “puzzling” that people ingesting fast food has somehow lead to people living on. OK, yes they are living on, but not as much as they otherwise would be.

  4. Maurizio says:

    “He is telling the coach to put him in the game, so he’ll debase the currency.”

    Here’s something that puzzles me… with QE3 the dollar went up instead of down. How can this be explained? Increase perceived as temporary by the public?

  5. Tel says:

    What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity?

    Well that moral theory would be called “ownership”. How it works is that people with an investment in building up the sort of community they enjoy living in, also feel it is both necessary and reasonable they get to have some say in selecting the type of people who will be hanging around alongside them in this community.

    And yes, it does make a difference having good neighbours vs bad neighbours. Without some control over that, you don’t have any community and you might as well forget about any investment.

    Whether the nation state is an optimal size for this system is another matter (I’d say probably not) but at the moment it’s the only show in town so don’t blame people who feel a sense of loyalty to that entity, in a cultural sense. As it stands, We are outlawed from creating any kind of discriminatory group whatever, other than at national borders… which is kind of why those borders have become a big deal.

    Just to bring up another awkward topic, did anyone notice the 15 year old Muslim kid who decided to try his luck shooting out with the Parramatta police? You know how they have that gun control debate, and someone says, “If only the victims also had guns there wouldn’t be as many deaths.” … seems like it works. The kid got first shot, blew up some harmless accountant who just tallys up police expenses , then 30 seconds later same kid was down with a gutful of hollow points (can’t legally take those on the battlefield, but can legally use them on the streets of New South Wales, if you happen to work for the government). The good thing is, our cops tend to shoot straight, and not too often.

    Kid’s older sister was on an airliner to Istanbul, just before he went nuts, almost like she knew something.

    You know I was just walking down that same street about an hour beforehand. Funny old world, lot of cranky folks out there.

    • Harold says:

      I would guess the hollow points are to reduce the chance of killing someone behind the intended victim. – not usually a major consideration in a “traditional” battlefield. These days the batlefield is likely to be less well defined. The act banning them was the Hague Convention of 1899 – perhaps a bit out of date now. The USA is considering using hollow point bullets for army pistols. The USA did not sign the Hague convention anyway.

      “We are outlawed from creating any kind of discriminatory group whatever,” Not true. You can form a group that discriminates against cat owners. Or people without law degrees or medical degrees. Or pretty much anything apart from a few specified things – race, sex, religion, disability..

    • Harold says:

      More on hollow points. In the UK it is illegal under the 1968 Firearms act to posses or transfer hollow points without written authorisation from the Home Secretary. Unfrotunately it is also illegal to use any other sort of amunition for hunting deer under the Deer Act 1992.

      It seems odd that hollow points are required for hunting deer to minimise suffering in deer, yet banned for use on humans for the exact same reason.

  6. onigiri says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but a currency debasement woul be very good news for gold “price”. Perhaps Scott Sumner is a closet goldbug?

    • Major.Freedom says:

      He puts all his faith in institutions that hoard gold, so….

  7. Scott D says:

    Be careful what you say about Tom Woods. The New York Times is likely to quote you on that.

  8. RPLong says:

    At face value, that can only mean that no moral person can ever use wires, walls, or weapons to deter other people, period.

    Uh, NAP?

  9. Bob Murphy says:

    Alex T. and RPLong, c’mon guys. I’m saying that under any scenario in which you think it’s OK to use wires, walls, or weapons to deter someone, that person is exercising motion of his body in order to achieve something he perceives as an opportunity.

    Thus, Alex T.’s stated moral position is clearly untenable. He’s thinking, “I don’t want the State to use guns etc. to stop people from entering a geographical region to get a better job” but summarizes it with a principle that is way too broad.

    • RPLong says:

      No, I get it, but I still don’t like it. The NAP dictates that you not use guns as a deterrent because that’s pretty clearly a threat, i.e. aggression. In other words, I really don’t think it’s okay to threaten people with guns and wires in any situation, so your criticism totally misses.

      • Tel says:

        But then all property rights imply a threat somehow, or else you don’t have property you merely have a sign that asks people nicely not to mess with your stuff.

        • RPLong says:

          In most situations, asking people nicely is perfectly sufficient. How many times have you been forced to defend your physical property with the threat of force? If the number is non-zero, then you are already an exception.

          When asking people nicely isn’t sufficient, we have the legal system – for which there are plenty of nice, non-violent an-cap surrogates that would also suffice.

          For those situations when you’d be forced to defend your property with violence, it is clear that your interlocutor would have already violated the NAP.

          So, no, I don’t agree with your conclusion at all. Most human interaction is perfectly peaceful, and no, private property does not automatically imply a fight to the death.

          • guest says:

            “In most situations, asking people nicely is perfectly sufficient.”

            That’s because force is implied.

            It’s the same reason cops can “ask” you nicely to obey the law, and you’ll do it without realizing that your life has just been threatened.

            The threat of defense is not an initiatory threat.

            At any rate, defensive threat is implied by the concept of ownership.

            • RPLong says:

              “That’s because force is implied.”

              Oh, really? Is that why you don’t steal from people? Because you’re afraid they’ll hurt you?

              Or, do you simply recognize the institution of private property?

              I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s the latter. I wouldn’t steal from people, even if I could do so without corporeal consequence.

          • Major.Freedom says:

            “So, no, I don’t agree with your conclusion at all. Most human interaction is perfectly peaceful, and no, private property does not automatically imply a fight to the death.”

            Tel was only responding to your claim that the NAP implies a prohibition on all gun and all gun usage.

            He was saying that if a person defends his life by using a gun is an aggression, then all defense is aggression, which is clearly wrong.

          • Tel says:

            For those situations when you’d be forced to defend your property with violence, it is clear that your interlocutor would have already violated the NAP.

            Originally you said that any threat counts as aggression, so therefore being willing to defend property (by your rules) is also aggression. That’s effectively the same as the “property it theft” argument.

            • RPLong says:

              No, I said threatening people with a gun is a violation of the NAP, and it is. The NAP doesn’t imply that it’s okay to tell people nice and loud that you have a gun, so they better not mess with you. I don’t know anyone who really believes that.

              I know we libertarians like to speak in the abstract as if every fair claim to a right is ultimately enforced by violence, but in the real world we all respect the value of certain institutions, and that does almost all of the moral heavy lifting. There is no need to bring guns into it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Just so!

      • Dan says:

        Using guns as a deterrent isn’t a threat, it is a warning. You’re not threatening to initiate violence, you’re warning that if someone else does, then you’re ready and willing to defend yourself and your property.

        • RPLong says:

          Here’s the definition of the word threat, according to Bing:

          “a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done”

          This sounds to me like what happens when you use a gun to deter someone from an activity. Am I wrong?

          • Dan says:

            You said you can’t use guns as a deterrent because it is a threat ie aggression and that violates the NAP. This is wrong. I have no problem if you want to call it a threat if I use a gun to deter someone from initiating violence, but I do have a problem if you call that kind of threat a violation of the NAP.

          • Major.Freedom says:

            RPLong, are you seriously saying there is no difference in the term “threatening” between a potential rape victim “threatening” the rapist with a punch to the face, and the rapist threatening the potential rape victim?

            The threat of defense is not the same thing as a threat of aggression.

            Physical force used to defend against introductions of physical force, is morally justified in the NAP framework.

            • RPLong says:

              I’m pointing out that it is a lot easier to state in the abstract, “If someone threatens my family, I will defend my family to the deat,” than it is to go around brandishing a pistol and reminding everyone that if they mess with you, you’ll shoot them.

              The latter is pretty clearly a threat and a violation of the NAP. My position is that the Berlin Wall was pretty much the same kind of violation of the NAP. And, by extension, so is a wall around the United States.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        RPLong, I think you are stretching things to move from “deter” to “threaten,” but it’s moot. The actual verb Alex used was “prevent.”

        I’m a pacifist and I’m okay with using walls and doors and even locks to prevent people from doing stuff with my property that they find opportune.

      • Major.Freedom says:


        How in the world am I “threatening” aggression against your person or property with a wired perimeter around MY home?

        I am not throwing it at you. If it hurts you, it is because you are trespassing

      • Bob Murphy says:

        RPLong, let me make sure you and I aren’t getting sidetracked by the other arguments (which you may wish to pursue): I am fine if you want to say that Clint Eastwood is threatening when he says, “Do you feel lucky?”

        I’m not arguing over threats. I’m saying that the way Alex phrased his principle, the owners of a bank aren’t allowed to use a safe to keep others from taking the money inside.

        In general, I don’t think Alex really *does* believe people have the right to “move freely” without regard to borders. Just like he doesn’t think people have a right to food or schooling.

        What he means is that people have a right to not have arbitrary State officials use their superior firepower to interfere with voluntary transactions between legitimate property owners. But I think it is very confusing and counterproductive to label that position “Open Borders.”

        • RPLong says:

          My understanding of AT’s position is that a safe is okay, but a booby-trapped safe that cuts your hand off if you touch it and then engulfs you in napalm is not normally what we have in mind when we say that we have a right to defend our property.

          To me, your point reads like you’re saying, “We shouldn’t call it ‘free speech’ because libel is against the law.” The essence of free speech is that we can communicate our ideas, no matter how controversial, in an unobstructed way. And yet no one gets confused about free speech when the issue of libel arises.

          Similarly with the freedom to migrate. You might as well say that the existence of an imaginary line proves that no border is ever truly open, but that is semantic silliness. AT’s point, as far as I can tell, is that whatever our ideas of national defense might be, shooting innocent economic migrants or maiming them with razor wire is not at all what we have in mind when we argue for a right to national defense from invaders.


          • Bob Murphy says:

            RPLong, if someone wrote an article entitled, “The Case for Free Speech” and then said: “There is no moral theory that justifies one person making a phone call to prevent another from voicing his opinion on a political topic,” then would I be a jerk for pointing out that he just ruled out editorial judgments from the owners of private newspapers and websites?

            I know what Alex was trying to say, and I agree strongly with him. But the principle he used to back it up was way too broad. I don’t know why this is my fault.

            • RPLong says:

              First off, I don’t think you’re a jerk, and I apologize if something I said in one of my comments left that impression. I can’t see where I might have given you that impression, but if you point me to the offending comment, I’ll make sure I don’t ever give a repeat performance. Sorry about that.

              Second, I guess I either don’t follow your analogy or don’t see how it reflects Tabarrok’s claim. I think a more representative analogy would be if someone were to say, “What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from speaking?”

              Major_Freedom might then chime in with, “The right to free speech ultimately must be defended with guns if necessary,” and that view might actually gain some traction with me.

              But I’m sure we all agree that brandishing a pistol and telling everyone loudly that they’ll get it good and hard if they try to infringe on your right to free speech is a violation of the NAP. And as I said to MF up above, this is really the kind of threat that the Berlin Wall made against freedom of migration. It’s not beyond reason to think that a similar wall between the US and Mexico carries a similar threat.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                RPLong the “jerk” thing was just how I write to make a point. I know you weren’t calling me a jerk. But substitute some milder form of finger-wagging, and my comment stands.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                RPLong I think you are getting too much bogged down in the weaponry / NAP stuff. Just focus on walls. Alex is saying no moral theory justifies using a wall to prevent someone from seeking opportunity. Yet of course he doesn’t believe that literally. He means no State-built wall.

              • RPLong says:

                Bob, actually, it’s funny because I almost made this point in my very first comment: You and the commentators who agree with you focus on the “wall” part, and I’m focusing on the “weapon” part. I think if AT had said only “weapon,” then my point would be unobjectionable, whereas had he said only “wall” then your point would be obvious.

                So the question is whether saying “wire, wall, and weapon” more closely reflects your take or mine. I’d say my interpretation is “clearly” more accurate, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you see yours as the more appropriate interpretation.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                RPLong last thing and I have to call it quits: I don’t think Alex is against the use of weapons for, say, home defense, or for banks to repel armed robbers.

    • Tel says:

      So it’s a question of whether the property right implying individuals have freedom of transit takes precedence over the property right of a community of individuals who decide amongst themselves to exclude some people.

      In the abstract, that’s not an easy question. Freedom of transit is very old, given that humans started out as nomads, so for those who claim the oldest usage always takes precedent, we should all have freedom of transit. However, a given individual probably hasn’t made all that many international trips, and those nation states were there before that particular individual so do we automatically inherit the rights of our many ancestors?

      In practice it’s easier to figure out. Let’s suppose some town is ruled by a King who owns everything, then allows others to use it as he sees fit (that used to be the standard way of doing things by right of conquest). The King could then exclude strangers for whatever reason. But suppose the King dies and leaves behind a decree that same town gets divided up amongst 10 wealthy families and rules by a governing council, then effectively that council has the same capabilities that the King would have done.

      So in a democratic nation, the citizens may choose representatives who form a governing council and you have the same thing again on a larger scale (give or take a few Constitutional limitations which most people ignore anyway). The concept of “first usage” has now largely been abandoned, and property rights are bestowed by the power of that governing council backed up by force and hopefully implementing the will of the people. What we see is that most people in most nations want some capability of mutual defense and they will take action towards that end. Organized military forces tend to be more effective than a rabble of individuals, so that’s what people use… because they can, and because it works.

      • RPLong says:

        OpenBorders.info already has a ton of information refuting the concept of collective property rights as an argument against open borders. It really blows my mind that people keep bringing this stuff up almost with an air of “but open borders advocates are silent on this, and the conclusion is obvious…” when in fact these ideas have received exhaustive treatment from OB advocates.

        Take a look at the many discussions on the website. For starters, you can look at my 2013 piece on the topic – with the caveat that it is probably the worst of the bunch:


        • Tel says:

          OK, it’s going to take some space to explain this properly.

          I never said “open borders advocates are silent on this”, but the original article asked the question which I quoted above:

          What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity?

          It’s a rhetorical question implying that the whole concept of a group of people mutually defending their territory has never been supported by any moral theory. Well, the fact is (in as much as anything is supported by moral theory) there certainly is plenty of background behind the concept of mutual defense… and for that matter nationhood as a whole has a huge body of theory supporting it, actually many different theories lead to the same place from various starting points. Some people may reject this for their own reasons but to ask the question as if there were nothing that even needs to be argued here is ridiculous.

          What I did say was that you have to trade off between competing property claims: the claim of free movement for the traveller, and the territorial claim to be allowed to select who comes within your sphere of influence. Clearly those overlap and therefore at least some claimants must go away empty handed. Any author pretending that territorial claims don’t exist at all has just abandoned the concept of property rights in real estate.

          Now, we can talk about the relationship between territorial property rights at the micro scale (e.g. a household) and territorial property rights on a macro scale (e.g. citizenship and what benefits/responsibilities are conferred by that). Clearly even at the micro scale we have collective property ownership in as much as a family jointly own their household, so I’m not even going to bother arguing with people trying to claim that all property must be exactly owned by one individual and that groups cannot (even in principle) own anything.

          I will agree that the household is a different style of collective to the nation state, obviously size does matter, for a bunch of reasons. So from your website:

          The “collective property rights” argument thus attempts to counter the libertarian case for open borders. Even if this is correct, it does not counter the utilitarian or egalitarian case for open borders.

          Agreed, and I can look at the utilitarian side in more detail elsewhere, but I will point out that no moral theory can be entirely divorced from utilitarian concerns. Your morality has to work in the real world. For all those moral theories that end in, “Yeah, then the unicorns fly in and save us, and it works out great,” what happens to those people is they get forgotten and whatever else they were working on at the time no longer matters.

          So here’s quotes from Don Boudreaux, who is usually very careful with his research and arguments, but I don’t regard this as his best work:

          Moreover, in a home each and every space is private; no place in a home is open to the public. A nonresident of a home can enter only if he first secures from a resident an invitation—an invitation that is nontransferable, of limited duration, and that specifies (if only implicitly) the time and conditions of the nonresident’s visit. Not so in a nation. Each nation is full of places that generally are open to the public. Roads, boulevards, sidewalks, parks, town squares, city centers, and airports are by their nature open to people without invitation.

          Well, if by this Don is claiming that the current law as it stands does allow open, unimpeded access to streets, parks, etc. then this is easy to disprove. The very fact that we are having this discussion at all, and the fact that people are in the business of open borders advocacy should tell you that there are restrictions on so called “public” spaces. Someone who is in a country illegally can indeed get picked up in the street or park, and deported… that’s what the open borders advocates are complaining about. This happens all the time. For example, in Australia a citizen or resident can drive their boat up and down the coastline, stop in at a public beach anytime… no problem. However, if a bunch of people smugglers get detected bringing in a boatload of immigrants our Navy scoop them up (including the threat of force) and send them back again.

          There does exist a system of invitations, that’s why you apply for a visa… and no these places are not open to all comers without invitation.

          I also point out, that even for citizens, a great deal of restrictions apply. You cannot simply start fencing off the local park, nor can you undertake private building works, not even cut a tree without permission. You certainly won’t be allowed to put up a tent and start living in the local city park.

          If a private citizen were to attempt to erect a boom gate and toll both on a “public” street they would be very quickly prevented from doing that. A large body of law involves the trusteeship of each of these places. They are not free-for-all in any sense. Very specific activities are allowed, to a select group of people and supervised by several layers of decision-making bodies.

          I’m happy to give Don the benefit of the doubt here, that he states the way he believes it should work based on his moral theory… fair enough, but that’s begging the question. His evidence for his moral theory is that he can describe how he would like it to be… however, even there, I doubt that it would work for long. If a city park counts as “unowned” land then there’s nothing to prevent an individual claiming ownership of it, and I’m sure very quickly individuals would do. Then these “public” spaces rapidly become private and essentially everything requires an invitation under that system as well.

          And more: while in a home each resident personally knows (and frequently loves) each of the other residents, in a nation the citizens overwhelmingly remain strangers to one another. The percentage of America’s 300-plus million citizens whom I know is infinitesimal; I’ve not even laid eyes on the vast majority of them. The same is true for every other American, including the president of the United States.

          OK, so now we are considering the difference of scale. It’s a fair point that humans have an inherent internal limit of approx 50 ongoing relationships that can be maintained (the number may vary a bit, but that’s typical). Scale in itself is not a moral argument, it’s back to a utilitarian and practical argument, and I said I’d cover that separately. To look at scale properly you have to consider various intermediate group sizes as well. Consider a corporate building like Google’s headquarters… we say it’s privately owned, but really it’s owned by a large group of shareholders, most of whom are not personal friends or anything (some might be). Only certain people are allowed into the building, and even inside the building there will be access restrictions, by department, etc. Because of the complexity of corporate governance even owning those shares won’t get you inside the building. Some employees will know each other, others won’t, depends on what department they are in. Very likely those employees don’t know the shareholders either.

          Consider other cases like a government school, it’s a “public” building but you can’t just walk in there. The people inside the school will know each other to some extent, but probably won’t have any deep personal relationships.

          Anyway, I’ll move on…

          Analogizing a nation to a home creates the myth that citizens of a nation can, and do, trust each other in ways that members of the same household typically trust each other. But, of course, when I lock my home at night I do so to guard against violence and theft that might otherwise be inflicted on my family by other Americans. If every foreigner were immediately and forever expelled from the United States today, I—like all Americans—would be not one whit less vigilant in locking my home.

          So let’s look at crime rates in some US cities (I’m just grabbing some from Wikipedia, so it’s short-cut research).

          Bakersfield, California: 5.7 rapes PA / 100k people
          Fresno, California: 10.3 rapes PA / 100k people
          … and on the bad side …
          Minneapolis, Minnesota: 96.2 rapes PA / 100k people
          Cleveland, Ohio: 124.0 rapes PA / 100k people
          Anchorage, Alaska: 130.1 rapes PA / 100k people

          Now there’s some margin of error in those statistics, but you could pick others, clearly some neighbourhoods are higher in crime than others. All other things being equal probably a lower crime neighbourhood might be a nicer place to live, right? So there must be something that makes the difference here, I mean it isn’t a small difference.

          Take one step further out and try living in some African village. The near neighbours happen to be Janjaweed raiders, who take your daughter and sell her on the slave market. Locking your door doesn’t help a whole lot when the other guy has a 50 calibre plus helicopter air support. So yeah, there’s dome bad neighbourhoods out there. Mutual defense serves a purpose.

          Hopefully you see what I’m getting at here.

          • guest says:

            “Clearly even at the micro scale we have collective property ownership in as much as a family jointly own their household, so I’m not even going to bother arguing with people trying to claim that all property must be exactly owned by one individual and that groups cannot (even in principle) own anything.”

            This is my position, for what it’s worth.

            The reason is because you must first own something before you can delegate authority over it, so collective ownership – even between just two people – is an oxymoron.

  10. guest says:

    It might be helpful for the Conservatives to note that Socialists want open borders for different reasons than do libertarians.

    Socialists want them because they envision a global governance that forcibly redistributes Capitalist countries’ wealth.

    Libertarians want them because it is consistent with their believe that only the owner can tell another whether they may or may not be on their own property, and that property cannot logically be owned collectively.

    (Aside: I noticed Walter Block was espousing a belief in collective ownership. He was responding to a question about two people needing the government to resolve disputes, but he said that two people could each have half ownership of something, and that they could just agree to hire the same arbitrator.

    (Further, he was saying that three people could each have a third part ownership, and two of them could overrule the other.

    (Question: If property can be owned by two or three, then why not millions? How would that be any different than socialism?

    (Looks like I get to restate Block’s notion of “road socialism” and call him an “ownership socialist”. Heh.)

    • Tel says:

      Thing is, most libertarians do accept collective ownership, regardless of how it may be distasteful to admit that.

      A household is collectively owned, be that a married couple owning a suburban home, or some polygamist new age bunch owning a farm, or even some gay guys jointly owning an inner city apartment. Very few libertarians freak out and demand some single person be promoted to official head of each household, with a strict hierarchy under that.

      Many small businesses are collectively owned, including family business, and partnerships, even up to medium enterprise. I just haven’t heard many libertarians thumping the table demanding an end to all those evil partnerships.

      All corporations and joint-stock companies are collectively owned. This is Microsoft, Google, Apple, Ford, all those big names of industry… all collectively owned. Now in these cases the governance is a little bit indirect, so you have shareholders voting for a board, and the board voting for a manager, then the manager works as an employee but also as a proxy for the real owners. We can argue about how successful that model is, but it certainly does seem to be a popular way to do it. You do hear a few libertarians complaining about corporate personhood and the moral hazard of limited liability, but those are details, hardly anyone has a problem with the basic concept of buying and selling shares (Adam Smith did have a problem with it, but unrelated to the collective ownership aspect).

      Most charitable institutions, and even churches are structured so as to be effectively collectively owned (although they don’t call it that). Consider a church hall and yard for example, you don’t have the local priest claiming to be the owner, he/she is merely custodian, often with some committee and separate bank accounts for maintenance, upkeep, etc. When a new priest comes along they don’t buy the church from the old priest, no money changes hands. Again, there just aren’t too many libertarians demanding religion be privatised.

      The majority of cities operate under something resembling collective ownership. Some are outright corporations unto themselves, many have charters, almost all of them have some sort of elected officials who don’t own the city, but who are trustees of those spaces (like parks, streets, etc) that are not specifically owned by any individual.

      There’s your problem… collective property ownership, in many forms, is all over the place.

      Question: If property can be owned by two or three, then why not millions? How would that be any different than socialism?

      Sure, at least you are now asking a key question, and I think that’s a more useful thing to be discussing rather than some silly absolutist theory that no one uses in practice, but libertarians try to pretend they have a deep attachment to.

  11. Andrew_FL says:

    “Socialists want open borders”

    Well, not Bernie Sanders, actually. He’s very against the idea, probably because he knows one of the first things Sweden did when they implemented “socialism” was shutter their borders. And he sure loves everything Sweden does. I mean, not the real Sweden, but the Sweden he believes exists. Also grrr Kochs and whatnot.

    The Left generally wants laxer immigration law for reasons a little less grandiose than you’re suggesting here (Open Borders –> ? –> Global Socialist Government, sounds like an Underpants Gnome plan). They correctly perceive it as a great way to turn the United States into a One Party State. There are other benefits from their perspective, too, but generally they circle back to increasing their political clout.

    Forget property rights, I want to see an argument reconciling open borders with the right of secession. That’s a much thornier proposition.

    • guest says:

      “Well, not Bernie Sanders, actually.”

      I would have said Communists, but I didn’t want to exclude Socialists from my description, which is just an inconsistent form of Communism.

      It probably helps if I qualify that I didn’t mean National Socialists.

      “(Open Borders –> ? –> Global Socialist Government, sounds like an Underpants Gnome plan).”

      I give you Obama’s friend, Bill Ayers, from whose house he originally launced his Senate run:

      Weatherman Underground manifesto
      (aka, “You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows”)

      “I. International Revolution …”

      “… The goal is the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism. Winning state power in the US will occur as a result of the military forces of the US overextending themselves around the world and being defeated piecemeal; struggle within the US will be a vital part of this process, but when the revolution triumphs in the US it will have been made by the people of the whole world. For socialism to be defined in national terms within so extreme and historical an oppressor nation as this is only imperialist national chauvinism on the part of the “movement.”

      Communism in Chicago and the Obama Connection

      “”On February 22, 2008, Ben Smith of Politico reported a story that ran under the headline, “Obama once visited ’60s radicals.” It concerned how, “In 1995, [Illinois] State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.”

      Bill Ayers has fairly recently said that he does not at all regret his actions as a Weather Underground co-founder.

      Aside: Breitbart lives, Lefties.


      • guest says:

        I’ll add that libertarians desperately need to go back and watch the Glenn Beck Program episodes that ran on FOX.

        Or, if you’re pressed for time, Judge Andrew Napolitano (now working with the Mises Institute) did several “Crash Course” shows for the Glenn Beck Program at the time, which are excellent.

    • Tel says:

      Sanders is owned by the unions.

      It’s pretty simple, the US unions had an excellent position for a long time, with much higher wages than just about anyone else on Earth doing the same work. With greater competition, the wages are not so great any more and partly the competition has come from moving those factories into Mexico, China, etc and part of the competition has come from just importing cheap labour (quite a lot of that imported labour works illegally, and thus can bypass many union-sponsored regulations like minimum wage, licensing, health & safety, compulsory union dues, and the like).


      That’s the fundamental heart of union power, although now and then they achieve political powers to boost that. Someone invests in capital, the union can “hold up” the capital with strikes and picket lines. When the USA had vastly more capital than every other nation, there was no other option than giving the unions enough to keep them happy, but now globally the physical capital investment is getting dumped into the developing nations and things like intellectual property (where the USA is still strong) cannot be easily picketed.

      Sanders would like to recapture the glory days of unions via political action, and to some extent I think he could do it, at a cost of longer term stagnation.

  12. Josiah says:

    If RPLong is right, then the NAP eats itself. By adhering to the NAP, you would be violating the NAP (at least if you admitted your position publicly).

    • RPLong says:

      Just so we’re clear, your position is that threatening people with a gun is the same thing as adhering to the NAP?

  13. Tel says:

    Going back to the original article in The Atlantic, there are just so many poor arguments there:

    Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.

    So let’s consider Singapore, since it’s a city that comes up for discussion around here quite often. It is indeed a very free-market oriented city, but in no way is it anarchy, not even close. They have very strict rule of law, and they absolutely do not allow open borders. It is reasonably easy to get a visa, even you can get a working visa with a bit of support from a local company, but just strolling in and out while bypassing government customs and security checks? I don’t think so.

    Singapore doesn’t exactly live a “life of penury”, they have very few natural resources, so they have to import fuel, food, etc but they do OK despite that.

    The other thing I find annoying is the straw-man argument that if you don’t support open borders, you must be a racist. This is lame, a controlled border can still allow controlled immigration, race doesn’t have anything to do with it. Most governments select for skill set, or for cultural background (often the two are related). As for the “governments promote gender discrimination” argument, I mean really? Which government is using border policy to promote gender discrimination? The only gender discrimination I can think that most of the first world Western government are promoting is their affirmative action plans, where they go around beating up business unless they have the correct state-approved quotas. What does that even have to do with open borders? It’s a non-sequitur, an argument out of nowhere thrown in for the feel-good factor.

    Now let’s consider religion here. A religion is a world view (some more than others, some stricter than others) and also a code of behaviour. Organized religions have been separating from each other ever since the idea was first invented. The religions of the Middle East have spent several thousand years cherishing their differences, nursing their grudges, and being absolutely sure they never properly integrated with one another. But nation states share a certain element of a world view combined with a specific code of behaviour… it’s called culture and law. No, you cannot mix arbitrary choice of culture and law in the same space and expect it to work out free of conflict… think about it.

    I’m taking a lot of space to cover all the wrongness in a small paragraph but this: “cementing inequality into place” still needs attention. All property rights cement inequality into place, that’s the whole idea of owning something, that there’s this object of value and one person has it, and the other person doesn’t. This author goes right down the whole “equality of outcome” path, which says anything you own can be taken and given to someone else because inequality, you know?

    If citizenship has a value of any sort (and a lot of people think it does), then by undermining the special rights & responsibilities of citizenship you therefore take that value away. People who want to keep this value have every reason to resist having it taken from them.

    And while the benefits of cross-border movements are tremendous for the immigrants, they are also significant for those born in destination countries. Immigration unleashes economic forces that raise real wages throughout an economy. New immigrants possess skills different from those of their hosts, and these differences enable workers in both groups to better exploit their special talents and leverage their comparative advantages. The effect is to improve the welfare of newcomers and natives alike. The immigrant who mows the lawn of the nuclear physicist indirectly helps to unlock the secrets of the universe.

    Yet another straw-man that if you don’t support open borders you must therefore oppose all immigration. Because we all know the *ONLY* way to have immigrants is to entirely drop border protection, abandon any quarantine, and basically throw away the entire concept of citizenship. The mere fact that every nation has done it differently for a very long time should be ignored when we get open border advocacy. How could it be otherwise?

    There’s no guarantee that an open border results in a good mix of skill sets. A controlled immigration policy almost always involves background assessment (is this person a criminal? can they integrate? are they willing to integrate?) and also skill assessment (does this person have skills that will be useful?). We have had a long history of selective skill-based immigration and that’s worked pretty well, in a great many countries. Very few of us are “living in penury” so the whole open borders concept is experimental; while claiming credit for the success of an existing fully operational system of controlled borders. That’s just dishonest, and not even very clever about being dishonest.

    Let me repeat what I think just doesn’t get said often enough… the reason illegal immigrants work a lot of low wage menial labour jobs is not because of some special skill set, it’s because they are working illegally and skipping past the regulations such as minimum wage, and a bunch of others. This allows much cheaper labour than employing a citizen.

    Now, it’s a totally legitimate argument to say, “Minimum wage is a bad idea, here’s the reasons blah blah, and we should lower it, or abolish it, or try to reduce the regulatory costs on business, so let’s advocate for that.” That’s one argument, but smuggling illegal labour across the border as a method to illegally bypass a lot of inconvenient regulations, without bothering to go through the appropriate due process is really just abandoning rule of law because you don’t like those laws. It cannot possibly end well if we keep making more laws to cripple the legitimate business, and then keep finding ways to bypass those same laws in order to allow some people to make a profit. You end up with a culture of corruption. It’s still capitalism (in a way, buying and selling favours), but the “investment” gets fed into stealth, cunning, bribes, and finding ways to undermine your competition. You get a kind of Blatnoy economy, which I think is the direction the USA is heading.

    Is there hope for the future? Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity. The grandest moral revolutions in history—the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off. They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded.

    This guy is pretending like the whole world has had zero migration for the past century. It’s an argument based on extreme hand waving. In those cases where the citizens of a nation feel that more immigration will make them better off, they can get that by requesting their government to increase the quota, or adjust the process of issuing visas… and guess what? This has already happened, nations do allow economic migration… in a controlled manner. That’s what a democratic system is all about: there’s continuous discussion about these issues and there’s continuous adjustment.

    Not an open border, a controlled border.

    He is also pretending that slavery, religious freedom and rights of women have been universally recognized the world over. That’s interesting, so we don’t have any people being taken as slaves in Africa? Makes you wonder why Michelle Obama was pasting silly hashtags “#BringBackOurGirls” presumably that never happened. Rights of women? How well are those rights recognized in places like Saudi Arabia? Try being a Christian in Syria right now. Ask the people of Iran about Israel, or ask the Turkish government how they feel about Kurds. Have a chat to the Han Chinese about those Uyghur people.

    Funny how those “greatest moral failings” always end up being a first world problem, huh?

  14. Harold says:

    The refugee crisis in Europe has led to the re-introduction of border controls beween countries withtin the Shengen agreement area – notably Germany and Austria. The rapid increase in immigration is difficult to deal with. Tabarrok says “Even relatively small increases in immigration flows can have enormous benefits.” However, perhaps it is the case that “only” relatively small levels of immigration bring enormous benefits.

    The rate of immigration must surely be significant.

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