Libertarianism, and human freedom, is defined as adherence to the non-aggression principle, a respect for private property rights with its origins in homesteading and legitimate, and completely voluntary, title transfer. Freedom and liberty applies to most every aspect of life – it is both transcendent and highly individual.
When everything is driven by self-interest, it works well if you live in a community that also treasures those same libertarian values. It doesn’t work when you do not live in a community that feels itself to be so – a group of people who feel civic pride and a sense of community, even when those members leave each other alone much of the time. Indeed, that is non aggression in action. However, since we share common values, we care about preserving them and those who feel the same. That’s why when someone does something dastardly we reject them – and they either leave the community or are shamed into changing their ways. Sometimes people have to be punished, if they break laws the community has agreed upon. Pretty simple, no?
Life could be so pleasant – and as challenging as we wanted it to be – if we all believed this. Unfortunately, we all don’t feel this way. Even if we didn’t we could still be happier if we allowed life to organize itself around freedom principles. Unfortunately, busybodies, mainly of the “progressive” type do not like people doing things they do not approve of. Progressives more than “fundamental Christians” have a much more rigid and depraved sense of right and wrong. And only they are allowed to define it. That’s a big reason why it’s so hard to live freely and non aggressively today. What a drag!
Don’t get me wrong – libertarianism is not utopian. People will make bad decisions and they will have to live with them. There are no bail outs in a free society unless someone voluntarily decides to provide one with their own money, time, effort, love, and so on. Freedom is not for the weak of heart or the flimsy of will.
Here, the basics of freedom – it’s really all you need to know. You do NOT need a degree in economics to understand freedom.
Immigration and Open Borders
Many people ask me about my stand on immigration because so many libertarians believe in freedom of movement and open borders. While I believe in freedom of movement I do not believe anyone should be able to plop themselves down anywhere and make themselves at home. In the first place, since personal property rights have everything to do with the core of libertarianism, liberty, and freedom I am not sure how plopping yourself down anywhere you like works. You can’t plop yourself down on my property, for example, unless I invite you.
Social engineering through mass immigration, or imported people (government or corporate sponsored) is at odds with libertarian principles because not all people believe in libertarian principles. And because it violates the non aggression principle, and because it is inhumane. Of course if everything was privately owned, and there was no such thing as a state road or state park – we would likely not have an immigration problem.
Cheap labor would still be imported (that’s still pretty inhumane) but it would also have to be exported, because there would be no place for these people to go when their usefulness expired (like I said, inhumane – unless they knew exactly what they were getting into, and they likely wouldn’t). But we do not live in such a perfect world, so we need borders to protect the last remaining freedoms we have left.
Mass immigration will also and has also led to a more violent society – and that certainly violates the non aggression principle. Even suicides among middle aged white people have skyrocketed as more people become depressed not just about the economy and the state of the world but about the stress caused by living in a multicultural, fractured society.
Romanticizing immigrants is foolish – excusing murder and mayhem caused by immigrants as “the price we pay for freedom” is absurd. Being a violent immigrant who is used to living in violence is not a mitigating factor for creating violence in a country that should be based on personal liberty.
Besides, when people who do not believe in freedom come into a community and impose their will – no more freedom! It used to be immigrants came to the US to escape tyranny and the welfare state. Now they come to impose it. This is indeed the fault of political correctness and the infection called progressivism, all the more reason we should limit the numbers of people who come here.
Moreover, I do believe that while wealth is created, natural resources are finite. I believe in the concept of “carrying capacity” – and this is something everyone who believes in freedom and cares about the environment, should be concerned with. People who believe in freedom naturally do care about resources, and are careful with them. Those who do not, impose all sorts of laws and regulations OR they abuse resources and leave their mess behind.
The Nobel Economic Laureate James M. Buchanan recently died at 93— I have spent a great deal of time reviewing his work.
One aspect caught my eye because it beautifully explains why anyone interested in a classical liberal society, and even for those of you who may believe in a modern liberal welfare state, cannot possibly support open borders and mass immigration. There is a reason, dear reader, that these political tendencies of liberty or welfare have spontaneously appeared in certain places in the world and not in others.
This is from a description by University of Georgia Professor Dwight R. Lee of Buchanan’s Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism The emphases are mine:
This standard position holds that to improve the social order, we must improve the social institutions (and the incentives they embody) rather than try to improve people. Although Buchanan rejects romantic notions of how the world would be a better place if only people quit acting like people, he argues that the behavior of a significant number has to satisfy certain minimum standards for a classical-liberal order to survive. These standards include the willingness and fitness to take on the responsibility of freedom; obedience to the prevailing rules of just conduct in dealing with others; attainment of a reasonable understanding and acceptance of how the world works; and willingness to defend the liberal order by distinguishing between those who do and do not deserve to be treated as members of that order.
In chapters 3 and 4, Buchanan continues with a discussion of the importance of people’s accepting a large measure of responsibility and treating each other with respect and reciprocity. He argues that a liberal order can be sustained only by regarding dependency and opportunism as clear violations of acceptable social norms. In chapter 4, he discusses the social norms of respect and reciprocity as part of the broad institutional framework of liberalism; they are public goods, but they are not as easily provided as standard public goods, such as national defense or mosquito control.
Buchanan’s Nobel was for his work developing Public Choice theory, the argument that government is a self-interested actor in the economy and that “government failure” is at least as much a reality as “Market Failure.” Current immigration policy, which imports constituencies for more government action, is certainly an example. Many observers believed the Nobel should have been shared with Buchanan’s long-time colleague Gordon Tullock. A 1997 interview with Tullock with Peter Brimlow is available here – also well worth reading.
Many libertarians will say it is the system at fault, not the immigrant, in the US. That may be true, however it’s the system we have and we cannot have a welfare state and mass immigration of cheap labor that feeds off of it and is culturally predisposed to it. I do not want to fund that. It is not “kind” or “humane” – it’s sick and diseased. Many great libertarian economists have noted this as well. You cannot have open borders and expect that liberty will prevail if it is not strongly conceived of and treasured by a community’s original citizens – and they convincingly convey that love to new citizens.
Freedom of Association
Walter Block, who has written about the perils of multiculturalism and “social justice” and on many libertarian topics. He has an excellent article on “libertarian basics” everyone who says they believe in freedom should read. It’s called Libertarian Basics, and it’s available on Lew Rockwell, one of my favorite sites.
Walter Block’s excellent essay on Freedom of association is also required reading. Let me quote from it here, so you will know how important it is to read.
“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to “associate” with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.
“Most men of good will are inclined to reject this argument. They see racial discrimination as economically harmful to the targeted group. They are economically illiterate. They do not realize that these sorts of boycotts have very little power. When employers discriminate against a given group, they drive their wages down. But this makes hiring them, by other employers, much more profitable, ceteris paribus. If some firms will not sell lunch to blacks, others will arise to do so, and be able to earn greater profits than would otherwise be the case. If some companies force blacks to ride in the back of the bus, others with no such rules will compete for their custom, and earn extraordinary profits from doing so. In all such cases, in the free marketplace, the latter (non discriminators) will tend to drive the former (discriminators) out of business.”
We have to worry about so few issues such as mass immigration and multiculturalism and government enforced “diversity” and inequality among people in terms of their skills, talents and interests if we depended on Spontaneous Order and indeed, anarchy (a scary word for many people who mistake the perfect political system for chaos), instead of centralized government and “administrative rule.”
Spontaneous order (S.O.) is a complex system that emerges from the interactions of simple agents, in this case, people. It is a situation where many individual elements interact under the same organic rules, adjust to feedback from other elements or external shocks, and create an overall, ever-changing system of complexity that exhibits properties that can’t be ascribed to any of the individual elements themselves. No one “makes” another person or group do anything in S.O. Things organically order themselves into workable groups that co-exist not through force but by natural ordering – these group may not even like each other or end up living with each other, but they co-exist in peace because they allow S.O. to work.
The idea is often expressed by other terms, depending on the discipline using it, including: “emergence,” “self-organization,” “self-governance,” “complex adaptive systems,” “self-assembly,” “cellular automata,” and so on.
S.O. is both powerful and elegant. People in philosophy, law, economics, finance, political science, psychology, sociology, engineering, biology, zoology, physics, chemistry, systems theory, computer science, and cybernetics (and AI) recognize it to be so – although some can’t quite let go of the idea that centralized government has to be in place for a society to work “correctly” even though they see the beauty, logic, and authority (i.e., effectiveness) of S.O. everyday and in every way. It is scary to let go.
Our societies and cultures exist in their present state for many reasons, and can be seen as a constantly evolving of interacting people. However, the beauty of S.O. also means that evolution – real evolution – does not have to end in the destruction of one kind of order in favor of another unless S.O. actually demands it. So, for example S.O. does not mean that a traditional lifestyle will become outmoded and disappear – that can only happen through government force. A traditional lifestyle will order itself spontaneously, with people joining it as it their desire, and others declining it. No one is making anyone do anything. You can find your order someplace, there is room for it. Like the economic pie, the S.O. pie is not finite – a mistake even “learned” economists make on a regular basis. There is always room for everyone in S.O. – and it is harmonious too because there is no forced interaction or mandates on language and behavior in S.O. We all find our own order. Beautiful. Really.
From the Ludwig von Mises Institute:
“The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom, or the anti-coercion or zero aggression principle or non-initiation of force) is an ethical stance which asserts that “aggression” is inherently illegitimate. “Aggression” is defined as the “initiation” of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. In contrast to pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violent self-defense. The principle is a deontological (or rule-based) ethical stance.”
From Wiki: Many voluntaryists base their thinking on the ideas of voluntaryist philosophers Murray Rothbard and Robert LeFevre. Rothbard maintained, first, that every government “presumes to establish a compulsory monopoly of defense (police and courts) service over some geographical area. So that individual property owners who prefer to subscribe to another defense company within that area are not allowed to do so”; and, second, that every government obtains its income by stealing, euphemistically labeled “taxation”. “All governments, however limited they may be otherwise, commit at least these two fundamental crimes against liberty and property.”