March 2008 - Posts

The Case For Free Immigration, The Case Against Borders

Immigration is a hot topic these days, particularly for those in the southern and south-western states of America. There has been a rising anti-immigration sentiment, directed specifically at immigrating Mexicans. The public cries out, "Secure the borders!" and "They're taking our jobs!". There is nothing new about this phenomenon. It has occured time and time again throughout American and European history. The same sentiment was directed towards the Irish, Catholics and Chinese in the 19th century and the Jews and Italians in the early 20th century. The three main contributing factors to anti-immigration sentiment are undoubtably (1) economic protectionism (2) nationalism and (3) racism.

There are many different types of arguements that are made against both "illegal immigration" and immigration in general. Some confine their claims to economics, and base their anti-immigration sentiment on the notion that immigrants are effectively stealing jobs, lowering wages and being leeches on public services. Others have a more nationalistic and cultural approach in which their complaint about immigration has more to do with keeping a "unified culture" and "tradition". Others are downright racist, basing their complaints about immigration on attacks on the hispanic race itself. Even some libertarians have gotten caught up in the sentiment. All of it relies on a mixture of fallacy and disinformation.

I intend to cover as much ground as possible and address the bulk of the arguements put foreward by proponents of border enforcement and immigration restriction. Particular emphasis will be placed on the debate over immigration internal to libertarian movement. Hold onto your horses, because this is going to be a long ride.

"I'm not anti-immigration, I only oppose illegal immigration"

This is a common claim made by many anti-immigrationists, including libertarian ones. But the legal/illegal distinction is entirely disingeuous. It's no different then making a distinction between legal and illegal drug use, and saying "I'm not against the right of people to use drugs, I'm against people illegally doing drugs". From what I can tell, an illegal immigrant is engaging in an act of civil disobedience no different then someone who wishes to smoke pot despite it being against the law.

To my knowledge, libertarians are not supposed to support the law just because it so happens to be the law. Opposing illegal immigration is to concede, by default, that you favor illegalizing immigration to some extent. It is to support the notion that you need special permission from the government, under the guise of regulations, in order to be allowed to live within the territory. There is no way around this. If you favor enforcing laws that restrict or illegalize immigration, you are anti-immigration to some degree. And in order to enforce such restrictions, you must support a government bereaucracy.

The Leeches and The Legal/Illegal Double Standard

To some immigration restrictionists, surely these people are all disease-ridden, jobless, job-stealing (gotta love opposing claims), welfare-sucking criminal hoodlums who believe in communism.

It is undeniable that the public welfare system, which is meant to mean public services in general, is akin to a massive network of parasitism, where resources are redistributed to leech-like recipients. Many right-wing anti-immigrationists argue that the "illegal" immigrants are recipients, and this justifies "kicking the bums out". But this claim is dubious. Actually, many of the "illegals" pay taxes in some form or another. Furthermore, this claim could equally apply to domestic recipients of government funding, which implies kicking domestic citezens out of the country as well. That's the problem with "public property" and all that comes with it: everyone is a potential parasite. Noone is able to escape using the government's services to some degree or another, such as driving on the public roads.

Furthermore, public schooling has been compulsory for a long time, so following this twisted logic we should kick all of the public school students out of the country as well. Afterall, "they're not paying for it". It would be absurd to argue that the solution is to kick people off of their own property and deport them. A real solution would be to privatize them. Have a problem with masses of people using public services? Privatize the public services then. Don't propose new interventions that require more funding and therefore in actual fact an increase in government funding to public services.

I don't really buy into the common notion that the Mexican immigrants come here with the express purpose of sucking off of the breasts of the welfare state and to vote for socialism. On the contrary, in large part I see them as fleeing socialism and quite rationally persueing better economic conditions and oppurtunities, where they will be paid more than 50 cents an hour. It is not immigrants that are responsible for the welfare state that we already have, the gullable domestic populace already intellectually supports it in large part and they are the majority of the recipients of its bread and circuses.

Either way, all such charges that are thrown at immigrants apply equally if not more so to domestic citezens, who vote for socialism and beg for welfare all the time. Are we therefore justified in kicking domestic citezens out of the country for driving on the public roads and sending their children to public schools? Or should we strike at the root, the welfare state itself, rather than using the welfare state as a rationale for violating people's rights and implementing new or expanded government interventions?

The Post-Ponement Arguement and Interventionism

Some proponents of immigration restriction, including libertarian ones, have advanced an argument that roughly goes as follows: "since we still have a welfare state, until it is done away with, we should support government intervention in the name of stopping the migration of people into the country". In short, since intervention X exists, intervention Y is okay as a solution to the problems created by intervention X. This is interventionism, plain and simple. The only libertarian solution would be to get rid of intervention X, in this case, the welfare state. Anything else just leads to a cycle of interventionism and a distraction from the root cause of problems. In practise, you will end up with a welfare state + more police powers and a larger immigration bereaucracy. That's just how these things work.

This particular closed border position is interventionism, since the arguement is essentially that in order to solve the problems created by intervention X (the welfare state) we must support intervention Y (a police state, quite frankly). And in order to possibly enforce these "borders" and immigration "laws", more taxes and spending are inherently required, more planning at the federal level is required and quite a bit of force will be required in order to go through with deportations and whatnot. At the end of the day, I do not consider immigration quotas to be any better than affirmative action, nor do I consider immigration controls in general to not be a form of central planning.

Immigration Restriction As Pre-Emptive Force

On the topic of war, I recall Walter Block argueing that is not sensible to argue for war that on the grounds of what people might do in the future. His point was that it is not libertarian to advocate initiating aggression against another country on the grounds that the country might initiate force in the future. I see the anti-immigration position as being no different. Initiation of force is being "justified" on the grounds of what immigrants might do (that they might accept welfare or they might vote for social democrats). It's pre-emptive force. Using the forceful power of the state to stop other people from using the forceful power of the state is self-defeating in principle. Increasing the power of the state in the name of preventing future increases in the power of the state will only *drum roll* increase the power of the state.

Furthermore, the position that accepting welfare or voting constitutes an initiation of force against the tax-payer doesn't make much sense. These are rather passive activities. It is the state that is initially stealing from the tax-payers. The state then redistributes the stolen loot to various interest groups, like a robber handing out the booty to gangs or to the peasantry. It is a misplacement of blame to go after the peasantry, the arguably passive recievers of the loot while neglecting the actual robbers. Where is the gun in the room? Most certainly not in the hands of the immigrants. The gun in the room is the state. To blame immigrants is to essentially blame the victim. It misplaces the burden of proof entirely. 

The State As Private Property Or A Voluntary Commons?

Some proponents of immigration restriction tend to argue that the state is like a home. Others treat it more as a commons. But treating the nation-state as if it were the legitimate private property of the government, or the people's common property (tragedy of the commons, anyone?), opens up a huge can of worms that could imply some highly questionable things if we consistantly applied it. The private property of the government notion can be used to justify practically anything that the government does, and makes everything (and everyone) within the territory subject to be controlled (in other words, it merely reinforces and falsely justifies the territorial monopoly). The common property notion has communalist implications. The state, in either case, clearly is not private property. The state cannot emulate a free market by its very nature, so it makes no sense to me to use the state's intervention in a particular way on the assumption that this is how private property owners would choose to employ their property. This is an imposition of a personal preferance.

If the state is treated as the private property of the government's members, then it is legitimized. The members of the state itself may henceforth be treated as legitimately controlling the entire territory. All of us who reside in the territory, and all of the individual plots of land and things that we possess, may be treated as the property of the government. You do not own yourself, the state owns you. You do not own your home, the state owns your home. You may not decide how to employ your property; you are not its owner, you are only being allowed to use it by its true owners, the state. It is not your property. The members of the state may freely decide to exclude anyone from the territory as they please, since it is theirs. You may not decide how to employ the individual portion that you are "allowed" to use; the state decides this for you. All hail the total state.

If the state is treated as the common property of the tax-payers, then it is legitimized. We should all henceforth buy into the phrase "we are the government". Of course, a gigantic practical problem arises: the tax-payers cannot act as a single entity with a preference scale of its own. The tax-payers are conflicting over how they wish to use this common property. The tax-payers cannot exercise their quotal ownership in reality. You cannot sell your 1/500000th (or what have you) portion of government land.  It is impossible for the "community" as a whole to enforce all of their individual preferences for how to employ such property.

Even granting that it may constitute stolen property, it has been redistributed so many times over and time has passed for so long that it would be impossible to allocate it back to the original just owners. Thus, in practise, we are left enforcing either the members of the state's preferences for how to use it or the preferences of a particular group of people within "the commity" for how to use it in the name of "the community". You may not decide how to employ the individual portion that you think you own; "the community" (I.E. in practise, the state or a special interest group acting through the state) decides this for you. All hail the total state.

The Incentives of Inclusion and Exclusion

While private property owners would indeed be free to exclude Mexicans in a free society, I believe that the incentives in a free market would make racial or cultural separatism suicidal in the long-run for reasons having to do with the economics of discrimination (and what I consider to be the large-scale implications of comparative advantage). At least on the margin, there will be an incentive towards integration; and there will always be willing sellers to some degree. The consequences of free association are a mixed bag and therefore pluralist. This is why I think that free association ultimately pans out in favor of so-called "multiculturalism", moreso as time passes. Separatists would effectively exile and impoverish themselves.

There will always be willing buyers and sellers. Consequentially, in a society in which all property is private, there is nothing that can be done to stop people from immigrating through voluntary exchanges for home and land property and voluntary patronization of transporation services, as well as good and services in general. In short, it is virtually impossible to keep a community completely ethnically "pure" when there are individuals within that community willing to buy and sell things with immigrating people from other ethnicities. In a truly free society, the incentive towards voluntary association would be so strong as to render absolute cultural "isolationism" impossible.

Free Trade and the Law of Association

Ludwig von Mises: "The productivity of social cooperation surpasses in every respect the sum total of the production of isolated individuals." - Epistemological Problems of Economics

For the same reason that blocking trade between people in New Mexico and Arizona would have a hampering effect on production, so too will blocking trade between people in, say, China and America. Economics provides us with the insight that voluntary exchange is mutually beneficial to both parties and has a ripple effect of sorts (I.E. its benefits may extend beyond the two people exchanging down the line). Any kind of protectionism is going to block this mutually beneficial exchange. It always is at the expense of consumer choice and bestows a privilege to one narrow interest at the expense of everyone else, and eventually at the expense of the original "beneficiaries" themselves. And since it stifles competition, it has the obvious effect of artificially keeping prices higher than what the true market level would be.

In essence, it is beneficial even for someone who is productively "superior" to others in multiple areas to exchange with others who are "superior" in none of those areas. Even if country X is superior to country Y in both areas, it is still in its advantage to exchange with country Y. If we accept the principle of the division of labor within a country, we must accept the division of labor within the world.

How does this apply to immigration? Well, there is a labor market for immigrants. It represents competition to non-immigrant labor. The economic law that Mises speaks of applies here as well. The anti-immigration movement wishes to use protectionism against the immigrant labor market. Economically and socially, such separatism is counterproductive even for the people who wish to remain isolated. While people are perfectly within their rights to choose not to associate with people, they undermine their own well-being the more liberally that they isolate themselves.

For example, if a buisiness refuses to sell products to group X, they lose buisiness, indeed, they are restricting their consumer base. It becomes vitally in the best interest of people to associate and engage in social cooperation, otherwise they harm themselves in the long-term by withdrawing from the benefits of society. This applies to immigration as well. To forcably block off immigration is also to aschew the benefits of social cooperation. While there is indeed a right of voluntary disassociation, the person who chooses to freely disassociate often does so at their own risk.

Property Rights and Free Association

Immigration itself is merely the act of moving from place A to place B. This is typically coupled with the act of purchasing a home, and the act itself may involve some form of transportation service. It should be obvious that this is a free trade activity just as much as any other. Yet many anti-immigration advocates, in effect, wish to illegalize selling goods and services to such people, hiring such people or allowing them onto one's own property; charity even. Such measures inevitably violate the property rights of both the immigrant and the citezens that they are associating with. If the government stops me from selling a home to an immigrant, hiring one or associating with them in any way, then my property rights are being violated along with that of the immigrant.

The problem with immigration controls and border enforcement is that it inherently requires dictating what citezens do with their own property: it disallows me from inviting someone onto my property, selling someone my property or hiring a willing worker. A lot of the closed borders advocates accuse open borders of violating free association and allowing people to engage in "tresspass" and "invasion" (and this arguement can only be superficially maintained if we treat political borders or unused land as private property or the common property of the tax-payers, which simply is not the case; there is no discernable just owner of the entire country or borders), but they apparently fail to see how their own position egregiously violates free association (forced disassociation is no better than forced association). It's not just the "illegals" that are effected, it's domestic citezens who wish to associate with them as well.

Libertarians are bound by the non-aggression axoim. This axoim leads one to support free association (and disassociation) between individuals on the basis that no aggression is used to force people to either associate or disassociate. This means that one must oppose both forced integration and forced segregation (forced association and force disassociation). If force is used to stop people from voluntarily associating, then a rights violation has occured. As such, using the law to stop immigrants from associating with citezens (and all that comes with it) is a rights violation on the part of both people in question. But the cultural isolationist essentially is argueing in favor of using the law to enforce forced segregation.

Prohibition Theory

When you prohibit something, in the short-term you might get less of it. But in time it is inevitable that a black market arises despite this limit on supply (example: we have drug and prostitution illegalization, yet we have a black market in these areas). Prohibition theory also applies to employment itself, to jobs. Thus, to overtly prohibit immigration will do nothing to stop people from simply immigrating anyways, just like prohibiting drugs does nothing to stop people from buying, selling and using drugs. If you illegalize the hiring of "illegals", you will simply create a black market for those jobs, and thus those jobs will continue to exist. Simply put, there will always be willing sellers and buyers. The answer to the question, "why do we have an immigration black market?" is "because immigration isn't free enough", "preciously because of the governmental limits on it that already exist".

Therefore, it is absolutely illogical to think that immigration quotas, more cops on the streets, the federalization of the borders, national I.D. cards, or any other such scheme, is going to actually eliminate illegal immigration. It is impossible to eliminate illegal immigration for the same reason that central economic planning fails, is unable to calculate, due to the complexity of information and economic decisions on the market. The fact that we have so many illegal immigrants right now as it is only shows that they can get through despite whatever previous limits existed. Indeed, immigrants are given an incentive to illegally come over by the mere inadequacy of the immigration process, with its red tape and bereaucracy. "Illegal immigration" exists precisely because of the degree to which immigration is prohibited.

Nations and Borders

What is a nation? A nation is nothing but a concept meant to describe a geographic territory. "Nations" do not actually exist other than as a linguistic term. Unfortunately, many people concieve of the nation in an anthropromorphic way, in which it is given a definite character as if it were a single individual, with uniform traits. But obviously, those within the territory that we call a nation all differ widely in their physical and mental traits, in their opinions and in their actions. The concept of nations is inherently collectivist. It presumes uniformity on the part of its atomic parts. And, most dangerously of all, the nation and state are implied as being one and the same. But this is an obfuscation, because the state is made up a minority, an oligarchy, of individuals, while "society" as a whole is an entirely different thing.

What are national or state borders? They are nothing but a line on a map, and do not exist independantly of that line on that map. They do not exist when one actually zooms in on the earth from outerspace. The concept of national borders is a concept of collective property; it presumes that the entire territory of the "nation" is "ours". But this is obviously absurd when one considers the objective criteria for ownership of property. In reality, it is property that the government is claiming ownership of, without necessarily actually using it, homesteading it or exchanging for it. In short, national borders effectively represents a claim of ownership by the government over the entire territory, and as a consequence, everything within it.

The entire concept of national borders depends on government ownership of property, specifically land. If one supports that government do something with respect to that land, including determining who should be allowed in or out of it, then they are accepting the notion that the land is justly the state's. It should be clear from a property rights standpoint that ownership of land requires that the homestead principle be fulfilled, or that a voluntary exchange has taken place for previously owned land. Government does not justly own the land that it claims, because it achieved that land by (1) putting up barriers to entry to unused land for homesteaders (2) confisicating it from its original just owner or (3) buying it with funds that were likewise confiscated from the original just owner.

The homesteading principle implies that it is not legitimate to claim ownership of un-used land, it requires first-use. When government is held up to the homesteading principle, or the principle of voluntary exchange, it becomes apparent that it is impossible to justify government ownership of any property at all, let alone land. Indeed, it becomes apparent that the history of the establishment of governments is the history of invasions and occupations followed by confiscation of land. In short, property precedes government and governments require the confiscation of property, including land property, to form in the first place. But in a purely libertarian world, all land is privatized, and therefore the only "borders" are private property borders. Immigration would be free insofar it would be at the consent of private property owners, and under such a context some kind of voluntary integration would become inevitable, moreso as time passes.

Walls and Fences

Among the more absurd propositions of anti-immigrationists is the idea of building a huge wall on the southern border. These people don't realize that they are playing out the exact same problem that existed in Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. They are supporting the pretext for a police state and for locking the people into their own country. Afterall, what can keep people out can also keep people in. Furthermore, has any such scheme historically worked in the long-run? Did the great wall of China hold out? No. Did the Berlin Wall? No. Some claim that immigration itself is balkanizing the country. On the contrary, fences, walls, increased police powers, and anti-immigration sentiment in general is balkanizing it. The state, and therefore national borders, breeds social conflict.

Artificial barriers do not ease hostility, they create hostility and intensify already existing hostility. In the same way that trade sanctions are a boon to international war, anti-immigration sanctions, artificial walls and the enforcement of imaginary divisions, leads to cultural war. But as Randolf Bourne once stated, "war is the health of the state". It is not just foreign wars that the state thrives on. It thrives on all kinds of domestic wars between interest groups, and wars on inimate objects and ideas such as the war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terrorism, the so-called war on christmas, and now the war on immigration. Anti-immigration sentiment provides a perfect atmosphere for politicians to exploit as to increase their power. And that's what it's leading to: increases in economic and police intervention.

"Isolationism" vs. Non-interventionism Revisited

There are some very compeling reasons for distinguishing between a non-interventionist and isolationist foreign policy. The key differances are over international trade and immigration. In sofar as isolationism applies to economics and the association of individuals, it is a bad thing and constitutes a form of interventionism, not non-interventionism. Economic protectionism is a key tenet of traditional isolationist foreign policy, as is what could be considered cultural protectionism. While the paleo-conservative movement can be considered better than the neo-conservative movement in various ways, unfortunately many paleoconservatives have a tendency to support protectionism.

What does the isolationist foreign policy imply? Painfully high tariffs, import quotas, export bans, immigration quotas, martial law at the borders, walls at the borders, prohibition of lower-end jobs, prohibition of various goods and services. Taken to it's furthest extremes, it implies a ban on all trade and immigration between America and other nations. In either case, it implies a plethora of potential government interventions. This sentiment represents a sub-culture of "buy American products only" and "the immigrants are taking our jobs" people. It has culminated in a "anti-globalization" movement, constituted by people ranging from the far left to the paleo right. This sentiment is riddled with economic fallacy.

The non-interventionist foreign (and domestic) policy, in contrast, would inevitably have to be opposed to such measures. They are, afterall, government interventions in the market. The non-interventionist foreign policy with respect to economic exchange can only lead to one possible conclusion: the unhampered division of labor, voluntary exchange, is the correct policy for both inner-national trade and inter-national trade. This inevitably means that protectionist devices such as tariffs, quotas (which includes immigration quotas, which is nothing but a peculiar form of affirmative action) and prohibitions have to be eliminated. Anti-immigration legislation is nothing but protectionism with respect to the migration, employment arrangements and housing arrangements of people, driven by nationalist emotionalism. Protectionism, nationalism and neo-mercantalism are the bane of a free society.


Immigration in itself is a free market activity and within the realm of free association. The problems associated with immigration are really problems created by the state, wether it be the welfare state or the nature of national borders in general. The solution to the issue does not lie in the state, it does not lie in federal troops at the state's borders, it does not lie in illegalizing jobs, it does not lie in public-funded walls, it does not lie in immigration quotas. It lies in private property. It lies in the privatization of land. State borders don't need to be protected or enforced, they need to be torn down. Governmental borders do not represent legitimate property titles, and possess all of the problems associated with "public property". Immigration should be left to the free market, which resolves such muddled collective/state property disputes by establishing a clear definition of property rights and a clear method of determining who the just owner is of a given property title.

Political Philosophy Is Dead

Clearly, conservatism and liberalism have become anti-concepts, devoid of any objective meaning. They used to have fairly clear definitions, but now they are meaningless terms that change with the context and times at the drop of a hat. The people refering to themselves as "conservatives" don't really favor a free economy and small government. The people refering to themselves as "liberals" don't really favor peace and progress. Both contemporary ideologies function within the same framework. They fundamentally support the exact same system. They've devolved into silly disagreements over how political power should be used and who it should be used to benefit, rather then actual substantial disagreements in political philosophy and over means. They no longer are political philosophies at all. Just group think and identity-politics. Cultural preferences. Not meaningful concepts.

Gay marriage? Prayer in school? Intelligent design? Flag burning? The wage gap between men and women? Abstinance-only programs or passing out condoms? Which alternative energy source to subsidize? Who's universal healthcare plan is better? What religion a canidate adheres to? How charismatic they are? Which thug in a suite with a smile is better then the other? Why the hell are you people even argueing about this stuff? What a waste of time! These are not substantial issues or matters of political philosophy. They are personal preferences and opinions. These things are either trivial or entirely irrelevant. It amounts to people debating over which arm they should be punched with or what kind of gun they should be shot with. Hardly anyone is standing up and saying "I don't want to be shot!".

I am not concerned with how the system should be used or whom it should be used on the behalf of (absolutely irrelevant!), I am interested in holding the system up to an independant standard and exploring wether or not it is justifiable. I am not concerned with what cultural and personal preferences people hold (absolutely irrelevant!), I am primarily concerned with what means they advocate in the persuit of those preferences (voluntarism and pluralism or coercion and monocentrism?). Most people no longer address fundamental questions of political philosophy. Instead, they quibble endlessly over semantics and irrelevancies and pragmatics. This is why I am disillusioned with politics itself. Everyone is busy fighting with eachother over absolutely meaningless and stupid ***, which distracts them from the fundamental problems at hand. They should all be uniting against the system. Not wasting their time trying to dress it up all nice to their preferences and use it to their personal advantage and to crush those who they personally disfavor.

Altruism Doesn't Exist

Is it really possible for someone to engage in a completely selfless act? A rational exploration of the question must lead to a negative rather then affirmative answer. For isn't it the case that no matter what action one engages in, it involves their selves and some kind of motivation on their part? So long as the individual in question could be said to have a motivation for acting, even if this motivation is a benevolent one, it cannot be said that they are acting in a truly selfless manner. So long as one has conciousness, so long as one is self-aware, one cannot truly be selfless. In order to be selfless one would have to cease to exist altogether, or by the very least enter an inhuman state in which one has no volition. But such a state of being is not how human beings work. It could only be used to describe non-concious forms of life such as a plant.

Altruism is not an objective description of human actions so much as a rationalization used to compel people into engaging in certain actions. It is certainly true that one could engage in an action that benefits another rather then oneself, but such an action could not take place without the deliberate concious effort and motivation of the individual in question. If a benevolent act towards another is truly voluntary, then it cannot be said to be genuinely altruistic because in such a scenario the individual actually percieves the act to be in their self-interest at least on a psychological level. That is, they desire to give to others. A genuine desire originates within the individual themself. Satisfaction is obtained upon the fulfillment of the desire, even if the desire is to fulfill a percieved positive obligation towards another.

So long as human beings act to remove a source of dissatisfaction, it could not be said that they act in a void of self-interest. They act in the persuit of satisfaction, which is their percieved self-interest. They employ means for the purpose of obtaining desired ends. The statement that humans act in self-interest on a fundamental level and that human beings are rational animals does not mean that humans will always make correct choices, that the ends they desire are necessarily logical and ethical, or that the means they employ in the persuit of such ends are the proper or most efficient ones toward obtaining their goals. It is merely a description of how human action works, that human beings are volitional creatures with goals and the capacity to choose among means for the purpose of obtaining their goals.

On one hand, every single person is rational in the sense that they possess the faculty of reason and are self-aware. They have the ability to freely make choices. In this sense of the word, noone can be more rational then anyone else because this is merely a description of our fundamental natures. On the other hand, in terms of their actual beliefs and choices, noone is consistantly rational if we are using rational to mean in accordance with objective reality and their actual best interest. People make all sorts of choices that can easily be demonstrated to be harmful to them, and people believe plenty of things that are not in accordance with objective reality. In this sense of the word, some people are simply more rational then others, make more coherant arguements and better choices. But when libertarians describe human beings as inherently being rational, we are using the first sense of the word, not the second. It would be disingenous to act as if we are argueing that everyone is consistant in their beliefs, sharp as a bell and makes wonderful lifestyle choices.

Altruism cannot be a logical description of human action because it contradicts the fundamental nature of how humans act. That is, no rational agent, in the general way in which rationality is defined, can possibly act in a manner that is entirely detached from motivation or desire. No human being is actually an altruist precisely because they are human beings. It would seem to be the case that the insights of praxeology and psychological egoism demonstrate this beyond the shadow of a doubt.

What Is Democracy? Part One: Democracy Is Slavery

This is part one in a three part series: democracy is slavery, democracy is impossible and democracy is liberty. 

Democracy Is Slavery

By the phrase "democracy is slavery", I refer to the tyranny that inevitably arises from the principles of majoritarianism and communalism. One standard definition of democracy is rule by the majority. Rule by the majority is fundamentally in opposition to the liberty of the minority, and the individual is of course the greatest minority of them all. The logical implication of the principle of majoritarianism, viewed as an ethic, is that superiority in numbers justifies decision-making over others. The group with the largest amount of people in it may control and subjugate all other groups, all other individuals not within it. To use a common phrase that accurately describes majoritarian democracy, it reduces to "might makes right". Majoritarian democracy creates a master-slave relationship in which the masters outnumber the slaves. The range necessary for a group to become a majoritarian ruling class could be anywhere between 51% and 99% of a given population.

Numerical majoritarianism, a subcategory or altered version of majoritarian democracy, is somewhat different in that no true majority is actually required. One does not have to exceed 50% in numerical superiority in order to rule over others. The numerical majority could theoretically be constituted by anywhere between 1% and 49% of a given population. In practise, it actually reduces to a minority ruling over a majority in terms of the overall population of those involved. Numerical majoritarianism creates a master-slave relationship in which the slaves outnumber the masters. The more groups that are involved, the smaller the numerical majorities may potentially get, and conversely the larger the dominated or subjected group may potentially get. Most examples of democracy in action are cases of numerical majoritarianism, although democracies could be said to vary between exercises of both pure and numerical majoritarianism interchangably depending in the particular situation in question.

Democracy is slavery because the minority, most importantly the individual, is forced into an association with and subjected to the decision-making power of the majority that they did not explicitly consent to. I define slavery quite simply as involuntary servitude and forced association, a state of affairs in which one or more individuals imposes decision-making from above upon one or more individuals against their explicit consent. Under democracy, whatever positive obligations that the majority wishes to impose on the minority must be lived up to regaurdless of the consent of the minority. The majority exercises decision-making power over social and economic life of others. Certainly a man is no less a slave if they have a multitude of masters rather then one master. While in monarchy the individual has one ruler or is the subject of a tiny familial or noble aristocracy, in democracy the individual has more of a plurality of rulers. The majority exercises shared or quotal rulership over the subjected individual. Democracy increases the amount of rulers. It could conversely be said that it reduces the amount of subjects as compared to monarchy, but this does not solve anything and the subjects are only reduced by the creation of more rulers.

It is important for one to realize that, as a principle seeking to justify authority and decision-making, majoritarian democracy, wether it be constituted by true majorities or numerical ones, is blind or neutral to the logical or ethical nature of the preferences of the majority in question. It justifies whatever decision is made by the majority, regaurdless of wether or not is right or wrong based on any independant ethical criterion and regaurdless of wether or not it makes any sense at all. In an exercise of majoritarian democracy, anything from murder to theft to rape to kidnapping could theoretically be given sanction, so long as the group approving of or engaging in such actions constitutes a majority. To reduce majoritarianism to the absurd, using the principle of majoritarianism on a small scale, if there are two men and a woman and the men want to have sexual intercourse with the woman and she does not, the two men are allegedly justified in raping her. Or, to use a large-scale example of the absurdities resulting from the principle, 51% of a population may allegedly legitimately murder the other 49%.

Majoritarian democracy fails the criterion of universality in ethics because the respective majorities and minorities are not held to the same basic standard of ethics. It functions as a defacto justification for the majority or group being able to get away with doing that which the individual or minority may not do. In short, the majority is exempted from being subject to the same ethical criterion and responsibility as everyone else. This is logically inconsistant if ethical principles and rights are supposed to apply to all individual human beings, if the individual is our standard of sovereignty. Using the law of universality as our criterion, even if it is one individual against everyone else in the world, it still is not just for even everyone else in the world to enslave, plunder or murder the individual. "The community", "the majority", and the deceptive phrases such as "the will of the people" and "the public good" cannot legitimately be invoked to justify tyranny. These terms function as obfuscations and illegitimate apologetics for the subjugation of people.

Utilitarianism could be seen as being linked to democracy in terms of the old and common maxim "the greatest good for the greatest number". Using this as a criteria for ethics could be used to justify majoritarianism because the precise definition of the term "good" is left up in the air so that whatever the majority happens to consider to be "good" is sanctioned. Afterall, the majority is "the greatest number". The majority may certainly benefit and gain utility, wether it be in a purely psychological and emotional sense or in terms of material and physical well-being, prosperity and survival. But the criterion for justifying it is arbitrary and inconsistant, especially when terms such as "happiness" are employed. The means toward obtaining the utility are not taken into proper consideration. The end of utility or happiness for the majority is used to justify the means. What is not addressed is that there is a burden of proof on the majority to justify their means. The burden of proof always lies with those who assert authority, and a mere numbers game does not constitute a sufficient justification for authority. If explicit consent is used as a criterion for the burden of proof, then democracy and utilitarianism cannot ethically legitimize anything at all. It functions as little more then majoritarian hedonism. In the absence of explicit consent, democracy as a general principle is nothing but an arbitrary apologetic for slavery.

The idea that one has a right to participate in and have decision-making power over other people's private relationships against their explicit consent is fundamentally contradictary to the concept of individual sovereignty and free association. A sovereign individual is one who is free from the imposition of 3rd parties of people, including majorities. Noone else has an abstract entitlement to decision-making over the individual and the private relationships that they enter into. Only the individual has legitimate authority in decision-making over their own person. The only alternative to individual sovereignty or self-ownership, as Murray Rothbard once pointed out, is either for another individual to exercise decision-making over their person, which would create a master-slave relationship in which one person rules over another, or for the collective or everyone to exercise quotal ownership or decision-making over eachother's person, which would create an absurd scenario in which everyone attempts to own a quotal share of everyone else. Since this is practically impossible to realistically enforce, the communalist alternative, in practise, reduces to the first alternative of individual rulership, only in the name of the community or collective. Democracy is somewhere in between the two extremes of individual rulership and the mutual and universal slavery of everyone to eachother. Democracy is as close to the communalist ideal that a society can get, reducing to some combination of pure and numerical majoritarianism in which there is a mixed and somewhat dynamic network of master-slave relationships.

Traditionalism As Stagnation

In my understanding, appealing to tradition (particularly for its own sake) causes the stagnation of society. All human progress has resulted from deviation from prior "norms" or "traditions". In my view, a conservative view of history (that is, one that romantisizes the past and supports tradition for its own sake) is counterproductive. There is no "turning back the clock" in the real world. Just because something is commonplace or was in the past does not necessarily mean that it is "good", and just because something was a certain way in the past or is that way now does not necessarily mean that it always has to be that way.

On the other hand, of course, just because something is new does not necessarily mean that it is "good" either. "Change" for its own sake, divorced from context and meaning, is nonsensical. But the problem I see with traditionalism is that it does not allow room for modifications on the traditions in question. A tradition may contain some truth and "goodness" but it also may need to be flexible in the face of new information. Attempts to preserve "traditions" that have become (or perhaps always were) illogical and unecessary are ultimately futile in light of social evolution. There comes a point where authoritarianism is the only means by which a "tradition" can even be attempted to be preserved in light of the dynamic nature of society.

All leaps foreward towards the attainment of human liberty as well as improvements in the general quality of life and the depth of human knowledge have resulted from the diminishing and eventual abolition of traditions such as chattel slavery, public torture, eggregious forms of capital punishment and religious literalism. Certain things that used to be nearly universally accepted truths and practises are now either rare or non-existant. The extent to which such traditions may still exist is the extent to which society has not yet evolved. There most certainly is such a thing as social evolution, although it is not linear.

Ideas evolve over time. Almost no concept or philosophy is entirely original in that it is influenced by preceding concepts and philosophies. Ideas can be seen as a synthesis between previous ones and modifications thereof. They do not just spontaneously generate out of thin air. The accumulation of knowledge is a dynamic process. Certain old and traditional ideas become so archiac or obsolete that they no longer can be seen as being sensible, at least by the bulk of people, and effectively end up as losers in the process of intellectual natural selection. Clinging on to such ideas and trying to enforce them onto a progressing world ultimately ends in failure. Adaption to new information is required, or the process will break down and stagnate.

Traditionalism is ultimately a futile outlook in that it struggles to reinstitute or preserve that which either is already long gone or will inevitably diminish into obsurity. While arguably some things are worth preserving and are certainly preservable, the traditionalist grasps on to that which is neither. They refuse to accept the dynamic nature of things and end up opposing progress. The traditionalist ends up becoming an extreme pessemist, seeing all that they cherish collapsing around them as society's inertia defies their wishes and desperately trying to hold on to the past and its relics for their dear lives. This is not a logical outlook. It breeds nothing but stagnation.

"Private" and "Public" are Misleading Terms

This is a response to the following video: 

Hello Luke 

I share your frustration with the definitional chaos surrounding these words. In many ways the meanings typically attached to the terms public and private property are juxtuposed. The word public would seem to imply that the property in question is under the control of the actual public, which would be the citezenry. The word private would seem to imply exclusivity. What is commonly called public property, however, is under the direct control of the state rather then the public. So the fact that it is labeled as being public property is very misleading and disingenous. In contemporary terminology, the term public property is an obfuscation of what should be called state property.

In reality, those who constitute the state, in conjunction with a small amount of wealthy elites from the public who are in patronage with the state, directly and exclusively control what is called public property. If the actual public were truly in control of it, they would be able to directly determine how their portion of it is used as individual or sell their portion of it. Instead, they are taxed to maintain the exclusive control over the property by bereaucrats. The public does not directly determine how the property in question is used. They are denied the true implications of ownership over it, despite being the ones who bear the cost for its maintainence.

Private property, in my understanding, would be property that is owned and controled by private individuals, in contrast to being in the control of the state. The public is merely the sum total of private individuals. So in a quite literal sense private property is the only true public property in that it is actually under the ownership of the public. To truly "privatize" would be to transfer ownership to the public. True public ownership of the means of production, as in ownership by private individuals constituting the public, would inherently require the removal of state ownership of the means of production. However, there is a significant difference between genuine "privatization" and the bulk of what passes as "privatization" today. What usually passes as "privatization" today is merely the transferance of ownership and the granting of privilege and protection to a monopoly, to institutions that already are in collusion with the state to begin with.

Institutions such as corporations and central banks are chartered into existance by states and granted special legal privileges and protections. So-called private institutions that are in patronage with the state and that are granted the privilege of externalizing their costs onto members of the public are no longer independant. They may be viewed as extensions of the government. While to some extent they may still be under the control of certain private individuals, usually a very exclusive group, that control was granted to them by the state. They are dependant on the state for their existance and often the state is one of their main customers. This is especially true in the case of military industry, hence the term "military-industrial-complex". And of course central banks function as a mechanism of state policy. They enjoy immense macro-economic control that was granted to them by the state, a monopoly on the money supply.

In order for an institution to truly be "private" in the sense of being independant and in accordance with the principle of free association, all connections between that institution and the state have to be severed. If there is even the slightest symbiotic relationship between an institution and the state, and if an institution's very existance is that of a legal entity based on some kind of charter or protection, it cannot be considered fully "private". Unfortunately, due to the definitional confusion in public discourse, this fusion between state and private power is blamed entirely on "private" sphere and a non-existant free market. The state's role in the existance, maintainance and protection of such institutions is obfuscated. Unfortunately people like Noam Chomsky have a tendency to repeatedly conflate the distinction between laissez-faire and the fusionist corporatism that currently exists.

So those are some of my thoughts on this. I hope I haven't created more confusion then before.