The Return of the Libnappers

Column by Hogeye Bill.

Exclusive to STR

Pro-closed border arguments are getting predictable. Typically they begin with sound libertarian theory about property - assertions with with all libertarians agree. In short, the only valid borders are property borders, and the use (and passage across) property should be up to the owner, not any government. The open vs. closed border issue would not exist in a stateless society.

But in our current State-dominated world, States do have control over an artificial type of border - so-called national borders. Thus, the question arises of what policy the State should pursue now, in our current statist system. There are several possible policy answers:

1) Approximate the goal condition of liberty as best we can.
2) Approximate the predicted outcome of the goal condition of liberty.
3) Pursue a statist policy designed to engineer a condition of liberty.

Neither insular libertarians nor pluralist libertarians favor the third alternative, since that amounts to anti-libertarian dirigisme. The second strategy amounts to central planning by the State, and trusting the decisions of rulers. Both two and three suffer from the same fatal flaw - it requires trusting political rulers judgement on both the goal state and the means.

Solution number one is usually expressed as “hands off, let us be” - laissez faire. This type of solution follows the heuristic: the less government interference, the better. Note that solutions two and three fail in this regard, since they require ongoing government control and supervision. Neither have an end-game, with liberty taking over from authority.

Let’s look at Christopher Cantwell’s offered solutions to the statist border issue.

A) forced inclusion
B) forced exclusion

We immediately see that this is a false dichotomy. What happened to the “less government interference” alternative? A second immediate concern is that Cantwell sets up a straw man at this point: He falsely claims that forced inclusion is the same as the open borders position. This is obviously false, since pluralist libertarians are explicitly against virtually all known types of forced inclusion - the welfare system, compulsory relations laws, affirmative discrimination, subsidized migration for refugees, you name it. In short, Cantwell’s two alternatives are only the two authoritarian extremes.

Libertarian solutions are ignored in his dichotomy.

The libertarian solution, known popularly as open borders, is the policy that the central State keep its hands off migration. We libertarians believe it should be up to private property owners, not government thugs. It should not be a totalitarian winner-take-all decision, migration should be up to individual property owners (and their hired PDAs.)

Cantwell makes some arguments against freedom of travel that I do not think are valid.

He argues that migrants might reduce real estate values. However, libertarians are quite aware that people own resources, not market values. If freedom causes the value of something to go down, that is perfectly okay from a libertarian perspective.

He claims that pluralist libertarians are promoting “a common space, and maintaining it at taxpayer expense.” I know of no libertarian that wants government controlled “common space.” This is another straw man - an insulting one. Maybe he is arguing that an open border policy would lead to more government “commons” than we have now. But we are not utilitarians, choosing government aggression in order to (hopefully) maximize utility. Our non-aggression moral side-constraint prevents us engaging or endorsing “necessary” evil aggression, even if we agreed with that dubious prediction.
Cantwell’s next argument is: Since we cannot have immediate anarchy, we should just give up and give the State control until we get it. He writes, “If someone amongst you would like to tell me how we get enough people on board with a private property driven society today to make that happen, I’m all ears. … one is left only to choose between utilitarianism, and leftist warm and fuzzy suicidal nonsense.” Clearly, less government intervention is not considered - only “utilitarian” forced exclusion closed borders or “suicidal nonsense” - his false dichotomy.

Next, Cantwell does the Rockwell-Hoppe song and dance of Cultural Statism. If we don’t let the State kidnap innocent migrants, he argues, North America will become culturally different. This argument is disgusting to a libertarian. It is clear to me that so-called “paleo-libertarians” are not libertarians at all. They are cultural statists.

Cultural statists favor strategy number two, wanting the existing State to “protect” all people’s property, pluralists and insularists alike, by kidnapping and deporting people without government permission papers. Ironically, they do it in the name of private property. How? By a very strange omission. They forget that many many property owners are NOT insularist, nor xenophobic. They ignore the many, many land-owners who like foreigners, who enjoy trade and human diversity, and who may want to hire or sell products to migrants.

The Culture Statists make the false assumption that ALL property owners want to inhibit migration. They seem not to realize that, in a stateless propertarian society, many road owners, hotel operators, employers, and others strongly desire travelers, foreigners, and immigrants. Hoppe and Rockwell promote violating the property rights of pluralist owners of property, in order to favor insularist owners. How is this different from any other case of government favoring one special interest over another?

All the great cities are cosmopolitan. Libertarian capitalism promotes and encourages diversity. The paleo culture nazis don’t get that. They are welcome to hole up in their Christian fortresses and shun foreigners, but they have no right to force their insularity upon others via State aggression.

This article was written in response to Open Borders Isn’t Libertarian, It’s Global Communism by Christopher Cantwell. 
Your rating: None Average: 10 (1 vote)
Hogeye Bill's picture
Columns on STR: 7

Hogeye Bill is a chess master, songwriter, and freelance anarchist. He is author of the popular Anarcho-capitalist FAQ and an online history of anarchist thought entitled Against Authority. He currently resides in Ozarkia (northern Arkansas in statist-speak) unless he is on the lam again.     


thomaslknapp's picture

Nicely done, but I suggest finding a foil other than Cantwell for future pieces of this type, for two reasons:

1) He's just too easy to debunk; and

2) Nobody believes he's a libertarian any more, and not many people ever did.

Mark Davis's picture

This really is a can of worms full of self-righteous indignation, all around (e.g. Cantwell). Trying to be the arbiter of who is and isn't a libertarian based on this very cloudy issue is counterproductive, at best. I just can't see a "pure" anarchist/libertarian position in the matter; we are simply arguing about problems created by the state and trying to determine which statist policy is closest to our anarchist principles. Supporting forced immigration is not the same as supporting open borders and opposing forced immigration is not the same as opposing open borders. Open borders is not an available option in a state controlled world. Trying to set the libertarian standard on this issue based on personal value judgements put forth as theoretical suppositions, is problematic in itself.
Such as, wanting to maintain one's own culture is not xenophobic, just the natural tendency of people everywhere wanting to keep traditions and be around others who talk, think and act the same way they do. As long as the maintenance of one's culture doesn't involve violence or coercion, then what's the problem? People the world over congregate with others like themselves to cooperate, trade and generally socialize; this general tendency is not a bad thing, indeed, it obviously promotes social harmony.
This schism between libertarians should be a non-issue because we all agree in theory that no state = no borders; but we do have states, everywhere. So, suggesting that some libertarians are heretics to the cause of liberty because they oppose a state policy being imposed upon them which they find destructive to their way of life and you think that some other state policy comes "closer" to what you perceive to be the theoretically perfect libertarian position, is getting awful close to the proverbial debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. IMHO, it’s better to focus on coming together to abolish the state (or survive the collapse of the state) and forego the divisive witch trials.

Samarami's picture

I like the way Larken Rose puts it:

    I introduce people to the idea that there cannot be a ruling class at all. Most people are so stuck in the paradigm of "...who should 'we' elect to office, what form should 'our' government take, what should 'it' do, and what should 'it' control and what should 'it' fund..." The whole discussion rests on the paradigm that there is such a thing as a legitimate ruling class, and then they dicker over the details.

Rose declares there isn't such a thing as legitimate ruling class. "It" shouldn't be doing anything -- "it" shouldn't even be there. That's a shock to most people's way of thinking, and it would have been to most of ours for large portions of our lives. To even begin to imagine a world in which there isn't a "ruling class" -- a government -- is unthinkable for most.

Are we the remnant??? Or are we the messengers TO the remnant???


Paul's picture

Defending our culture from the invaders: