Russell Taylor: In praise of immigration controls

I consider myself a libertarian (well, a classical liberal, to be precise, but let’s not split hairs). I’d like to slash taxes, leave the EU, privatise the NHS, get rid of state schools, scrap the license fee, reduce welfare to subsistence levels, cull the civil service, abolish anti-discrimination laws, devolve power to the lowest practical level, and throw as much as possible to the mercy of market forces. I don’t want to do this because I’m a stone-hearted capitalist, who would trade his children for a golf club membership and a gallon of crude, but because I believe in the sanctity of personal freedom and because I think it would create a happier, fairer, more prosperous society.

But I’m also a conservative in that I would like to conserve those things I consider conducive to the maintenance of a civilised society. This position cannot always be reconciled with a purist libertarian perspective, but I’m okay with that, because I believe that being on the political Right means rejecting utopianism, wherever it arises. I don’t concern myself with how nice it would be if people would set aside their selfish concerns and conform to some pie-in-the-sky blueprint for life; I’m bothered with what’s real and what’s possible. I understand that there are no solutions, only trade-offs, and that the best we can ever hope for is the most perfect state of imperfection. That’s why I believe that every political philosophy has its limitations – libertarianism included – and why it’s dangerous to believe that life can be lived according to rigid first principles. Human nature doesn’t always allow for intellectual consistency.

I mention this as a preface to one of the issues that divides libertarians: immigration. Last week, Bogpaper’s own RG Tyler put forward a good case for open borders, and many libertarians consider this to be the only position consistent with their beliefs. Immigration controls prevent the free movement of people, reduce competition in the job market, deny employers access to cheap labour, and infringe upon people’s property rights by preventing them from, for instance, gifting their property to foreigners. I understand all this, but I am personally opposed to lax immigration controls and I want to explain why from what is hopefully a libertarian, or at least a libertarian-conservative, point of view.

Free trade and the free movement of people are very different things, although libertarians often see an equivalence. The ‘free’ part of free trade is not just in the uninterrupted movement of goods from A to B; it’s in the voluntary consent between buyer and seller. If a new bike were unexpectedly delivered to your house and the cost of it taken from your bank account, it would be an infringement of your free will and your property rights. If you had ordered and paid for the bike in advance, it would not. When immigrants move to our country, they normally do so uninvited, meaning that the social and economic costs they impose on us are a violation of our freedom. There is no mutual consent between sender and receiver in the migration of people, so there is no equivalence with free trade.

Some libertarians are loath to acknowledge that there is any broad commonality of purpose between people, in case it is used to collectivise decision-making in the name of the ‘greater good’. But you only have to look around the world to see that nations tend to have distinct cultures, enshrined in their values and customs. This isn’t a concept that should trouble libertarians, because, left to their own devices, people are quite capable of establishing their own values, without some dogmatic elite doing it for them. Besides, mediating values needn’t constrain us; they can liberate us, too. A society in which everyone lived entirely by their own rules would be an oppressive one, because without the social pressure to show self-restraint and consideration for others, there would nothing to stop us from stamping on each other’s interests. For this reason, a society that inclines towards open borders allows hostile cultures to dilute or undermine its guiding principles and compromise its freedoms.

Many immigrants make a positive contribution to our country, of course, and enrich our culture with their presence. But many others want to live as they did in their own countries, while accepting the generosity and protection of the British state. Honour killings, gay-bashing and female genital mutilation are all the rage in some parts of the world, so when their adherents move to Britain they are liable to clash with our culture and our values, especially when our laws seek to protect them from criticism and discrimination. Then there’s the fact that a grossly disproportionate number of foreign-born convicts are sitting in British jails. Even if you subscribe to batty left-wing theories about discrimination causing crime, the conclusion to be drawn from this is that unfettered immigration equals greater lawlessness.

It could be argued that we must take the rough with the smooth, and that the economic benefits of open-door immigration outweigh all other costs; but who should decide? An absence of border controls imposes on people costs they may not be willing to accept; but denying them the economic benefits of immigration could be seen as an affront, too. This dilemma only highlights the impossibility of a policy that keeps everyone happy. I doubt there’s anyone who would put up with limitless cultural disruption for the possibility of financial gain. I’m for economic growth as much as anyone, but a few extra quid in my pocket in exchange for Sharia Law doesn’t sound like a good deal to me. That’s why I believe a compromise is required when it comes to immigration – and that means controls.

But what if I invited a foreigner to live with me? Wouldn’t that be different? Wouldn’t it mirror free trade? After all, it’s a private contract between me and another, and any attempts to block it would be an infringement of my rights. Well, if you start laying down conditions, such as only allowing in people who have been invited, then you are endorsing immigration controls of some sort or another. But more to the point, unless you plan to keep that person as a prisoner, they are going to end up imposing costs of the rest of us. There are the afore-mentioned cultural costs, but there are economic costs, too. Like it or not, we live in a country with socialised provision: health, schools, welfare, roads and so on. By inviting someone to this country you privatise the decision to let them in, but socialise the costs of them staying here. Yes, they could end up paying their way, but then again they might not. And if you start screening people for their potential for self-sufficiency, you’re back with immigration controls.

A libertarian would doubtless respond by saying, “OK, so scrap socialised provision.” And I would broadly agree with this sentiment. Get rid of the hand-outs and special treatment and only those people able to integrate and support themselves would bother coming here. Maybe we’ll live in such a country one day, and we should strive to do so, but I’m not holding my breath. If you have relaxed immigration and a generous welfare state, you import poverty, and the poor are far more likely to vote for parties committed to growing the state machine than ones intent on dismantling it. New Labour followed Bertholt Brecht’s advice and sought to elect a new people – one receptive to its nannying, statist ways – by encouraging immigration, and government provision expanded exponentially to meet its needs. An open-door policy would only witness more of the same, making the election of a freedom-loving party all the more unlikely. Much as I would like it to happen overnight, it will take years to roll back the state to where it ought to be. In the meantime, we should seek to minimise the costs imposed on others by carefully managing who enters our country.

There are many choices we make that impose costs on others, but, if life is to be worth living, a little give and take is required. Having children could be said to place a burden on society, for instance, but no reasonable person would want to outlaw childbirth. Tolerating certain impositions by others is the necessary price of living in a free country. Libertarians are more tolerant than most, because they understand the importance of personal sovereignty, but there is surely a limit to what any of us is willing to put up with. It is far easier to accommodate the interests of people who are generally sympathetic to our way of life than those who hold us in contempt. The more we have in common with others, the better the understanding between us and the less need there is for compromise. The larger and more diverse the population, the more likely we are to encounter ways of life hostile to our own and the more likely it is that our liberties will be encroached upon.

None of these objections are meant to present a case against immigration of any kind. A country without immigrants would be stale and insular; it would deny itself variety, talent and fresh ideas. I welcome people to this country, but on the condition that they respect its culture and traditions, and are willing to contribute to its success. The emphasis is also on us also to create an environment conducive to happy integration. Years of spiteful left-wing dogma has taught people that this country is a hive of prejudice, with a shameful history of oppression, in which it is impossible to progress if your face doesn’t fit. This is self-serving drivel designed to legitimise the Left’s pet grievances and persuade newcomers to become clients of the state. Immigrants who wander through an open door to find a nation of self-loathing malcontents, banging the empty drum of diversity and tolerance, are unlikely to find anything of substance to connect with. A country with a discerning immigration policy, which prides itself on its achievements, its customs and its heritage, will be one that attracts those who have the most to offer Britain. Irrespective of their background, I’d be proud to call such people my countrymen.

73 comments on “Russell Taylor: In praise of immigration controls

  1. Simon Roberts
    August 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I don’t believe that libertarianism and being anti-immigration are mutually exclusive. It’s often presumed that they are, on the basis that freedom of movement is a basic right.

    My interpretation of libertarianism is freedom of action as long as no-one is harmed. The point is that immigration is not harmless. You’ve highlighted Sharia Law as an example, there are also adverse economic consequences (as I replied to RG Tyler’s piece).

    Rejecting the idea of harmful immigration which has no democratic mandate is entirely consistent with the philosophy of libertarianism.

    • Russell Taylor
      August 7, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      It can get a bit nit-picky at the far right of the political spectrum, with subtly different factions playing a game of more-libertarian-than-thou. There are classical liberals, minarchists, anarcho-capitalists, and probably a few more beside, each with a slightly different take on the role of state, the sanctity of freedom and so on. A lot of ‘purist’ libertarians like philosophical consistency, but, as I say in my piece, I think every idea has its practical limit, after which blind adherence to it is perverse – as if the principle is more important that its real-world effects.

      Even if some libertarians refuse to acknowledge the validity of the nation state and the notion of cultural values, they do exist. And as long as that is the case, we will require controlled borders to ensure our freedoms are not compromised by people and ideas radically contrary to our own.

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Mr Roberts, just a few quick questions for you. Are you saying freedom of movement is not a basic right? I ask in all seriousness, because your comment doesn’t make it clear. If so, where do we draw the line? A Polish plumber shouldn’t be allowed to move here, because Poland is too far away presumably. But what of a Cockney electrician? Should he be banned from looking for work in North Yorkshire? Should a fishmonger from N Yorks be banned from looking for work in South Yorks? A man from Manchester should be banned from working and/or living in Sheffield? A couple from the east of Brighton banned from the west? A lady from three streets away banned from moving to my street? There is no logical point at which to stop, if we acknowledge borders.
      Also, assuming all parties involved consent to being governed by Sharia Law, there is no harm at all.
      Further, why do you assume there is anything liberal about democracy?
      On a side note Mr Roberts, did you find that Garet Garett piece to be of any use to you?

      • Simon Roberts
        August 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

        Hi Rocco,
        What I’m saying is that libertarianism is the desire for individual freedom up to the point that others are harmed. For example, my neighbour feels that he has the right to play his radio as loud as he likes – expressing his individual freedom. In fact, he doesn’t – because it harms others.
        In the same vein, freedom of movement is fine until such time as it harms others. Large scale immigration from poorer countries (including Polish plumbers) does harm others – the people whose wages are reduced because of competition from people who are used to lower standards of living.
        I hope you can see that the movement of an individual within a country is very different in this respect to a large scale inward movement from another, poorer country.

      • John B
        August 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        Freedom of movement, in its general meaning, is a freedom, not a Right.

        A Right is a legal instrument enacted by Government supposedly in the first instance to limit the power of the Government to interfere with a natural freedom, such as movement, speech, association.

        Unfortunately Rights have become more an instrument to enforce the State’s power over and erode our freedom, and to allow some favoured segments of society to demand something by power of law at the expense of those not favoured. Also Rights have become a tactic to give us ”freedoms” which we already have, so as to imagine Government is the only thing that ensures our freedom.

        But that’s fodder for another debate.

        So if freedom of movement were a Right, anyone could lawfully move into your home and if you resisted call uppn the law to enforce their Right.

        Freedoms then are not unlimited.

        As someone more famous than I whose name I forget said, ”My freedom to swing my fist stops where another’s nose starts.”

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

        “Freedoms are not then unlimited”. But you explicitly distinguished between rights and freedoms, and you were explicitly talking about rights. You can’t therefore draw conclusions about freedoms.
        But lets not quibble over technicalities, John. My position on this subject is perfectly clear.
        Regarding the quote, see my second reply to Simon Roberts, or any comment on this article by Evanescent.

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      No, Mr Roberts. There is no economic difference at all between inter- and intra- country migration. The very same economic effects occur in both cases. If my moving to Scunthorpe to open a bakery lowers the cost of bread in Scunthorpe, the very same thing will happen if I set up a bakery in Budapest, and likewise if a baker from Budapest opens a bakery in Scunthorpe.
      Regarding the “harm” done by the depression of wages, you are wrong as well. A wage is the value placed on a man’s labour by other men. You do not own this opinion of your worth, hence no “harm” is done to you if this value drops. Ownership relates to use, not value.
      I don’t deny a drop in wages is upsetting, frustrating, worrying etc. But it is not an instance of “harm”.
      Did you look up that Garret thing, by the way?

  2. Rocco
    August 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Mr Taylor, these social and cultural costs, can you explain what they are, please. I mean in terms of actual property related costs, not some incredibly vague “I like queuing and talking about the weather, and so should everybody else, but they don’t and this upsets me” sense. (Please don’t think I’m being rude by asking the question in this fashion, it’s just the quickest way to do it).
    Also, regarding the so-called ‘economic costs of immigration’ on the welfare state, do you not worry that your attachment to compromising and being ‘practical’, proves too much? I mean, it’s hardly likely we will ever have limited government, so why not embrace statism. It’s hardly likely we will ever have free markets, so lets compromise and embrace interventionism. There are alot of people who want maximum wage laws, bans on cigarettes, more powerful public sector unions, and a thousand and one other things equally at odds with liberty, so lets just be practical and go along with them.
    Where does it end when we decide to be “practical” and seek compromises? You ask “who should decide?” about immigration. Mr Taylor, you should ask that question more often.

    • Russell Taylor
      August 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Social and cultural costs? OK, how about Drummer Lee Rigby being hacked to death in broad daylight? How about importing poor Labour voters, who will ensure that we cannot rid ourselves of the statist influence for years to come? I’d describe those as the cultural costs of allowing free access to this country. As for financial costs, I outlined it in my piece: primarily socialised costs paid for in your taxes. But what if your house price falls through the floor because your neighbourhood becomes an immigrant ghetto?

      Your point about embracing statism if you can’t have limited government is plain daft. For starters, I think we can have limited government and should work towards it, but we won’t ever be rid of government completely. But just because you can’t have everything, doesn’t mean you might as well have nothing. Can’t shift this cold? Might as well have cancer. Total nonsense.

      I ask “who should decide” to illustrate that immigration policy is ultimately a top-down decision. Who decides to have one? Who decides not to have one? It’s like the decision to go to war or not. It’s a government decision either way.

      • Rocco
        August 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        Mr Taylor, I may be wrong (please correct me if I am), but weren’t the men accused of Lee Rigby’s murder born in London? The point is, murder is not exclusive to immigrants, nor is crime generally. And that is the real problem: the State’s monopoly on law enforcement, and it’s ownership of roads and streets, which are why crime is as prevalent as it is.
        Importing Labour voters was a specific act of government, therefore it is a problem of government (it’s existence), not specifically immigration. You’re also kidding yourself if you think theres not enough British people willing to guarantee statism for years to come.
        The social costs of the welfare state are a problem of the welfare state itself, not an immigration problem, per se.
        As I said last time, and in my reply to Mr Roberts here, ownership relates to use, not value. Should the value of my house drop this would still be the case.
        Actually, the point about embracing statism was yours. It is you, after all, who wants to abandon principles for the sake of being practical. I was merely extending what you believe to other areas, hoping to impress upon you the folly of such a “practical” approach
        As to questions of “who, whom”: there are people opposed to immigration, and there are people in favour of it. You are opposed and as such, you seek to enhance the power of the State to force your opinion on those in the other camp. This illustrates nicely how laws “cracking down”, and “getting tough” on immigrants do no such thing. They crack down and get tough with British people – for daring to trade with foreigners.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

        Yes, British born, but their ideology was imported with immigrants. Labour encouraged poor people liable to vote for them to come to Britain by relaxing border controls. Quite how the absence of any controls would have the opposite effect is beyond me. I’m well aware that we have enough supporters of statism in this country as it is, so why invite more in? Freedom is hard enough to defend at the best of times, without making things more difficult with open borders. On that point we’ll just have to disagree. Have a nice evening.

      • Rocco
        August 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

        Oh, that is a shame Mr Taylor. We were engaging in a rational debate together, and you just walk out?
        I think you’ve got me wrong. I’m not replying, asking you questions, to annoy you. As the son of an immigrant, and passionate believer in liberty, I am a staunch defender of the free movement of people, that is all.
        And I happen to like reading your column on this site, and generally I agree with you. But not on this subject, and so I have endeavoured to get you to change your mind. I certainly wish you no ill will, and on my part I have considered our exchanges to be a friendly debate.
        Have a pleasant evening, Mr Taylor.

      • Rocco
        August 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

        I’m sorry to do this, really I am, it seems un-gentlemanly of me, so don’t feel any pressure to reply. I just can’t let it look like your final post stumped me, that’s all.
        On the first point. To guard against imported ideologies after your manner, has implications you may not have realised. The State would have to censor the internet after the Chinese model; monitor emails; monitor phone calls; monitor letters; prohibit foreign news channels; prohibit foreign newspapers; virtually prohibit foreigners coming here on holiday; prohibit all but the most ideologically sound Brits from travelling abroad, then spy on them when they return. There will be more examples, of course. This is what life was like in the Soviet Union, what, I imagine, it’s like in North Korea today.
        On the second point: Like I said, it’s a problem specifically to do with government. Blame the government, not the immigrants – it’s only just. Likewise, if new arrivals (along with every other person who has voted in this country for the last century) vote for the expropriation of others, this is a problem specific to democracy. Blame the unjust democratic mode of government. Further, blame the British people for giving their support to the unjust system of democracy, so that still existed by the time those immigrants got here.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

        Sorry, not buying. You’re seriously drawing comparisons between reading stuff on the Internet and having a hostile ideology living and breathing among us? Blame the government? You can have small government, open borders and still find your freedoms encroached upon by hostile cultures. And as long as we live in a democracy, poor immigrants will be free to vote for socialists.

      • Rocco
        August 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

        Thank you for replying, my friend. I don’t want to put you out.
        To your points: Yes, it’s not far-fetched at all. Don’t we read about young chaps being radicalised on the internet? Are there not such things as Skype, and, is it, Facetime and such? Don’t these things, so prominent in young peoples lives these days, allow for two way communication at great distances? What we are doing now, communicating over a comments thread, are we not exchanging ideas? Are you not occupied by thoughts about the ideas we have exchanged in our discussion? If I may be so bold, isn’t the reason for you writing the above article, at least in part, down to our exchange last week? You and I wouldn’t know one another from Adam, if we bumped into one another in the street, and yet haven’t I influenced your behaviour in some small way?
        Now, our discussions have not been terribly radical. But what if they were?
        To your second point: I am not a democrat. Democracy is merely “might makes right” writ large.

  3. evanescent
    August 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Hi Russell, I hope you’re well.

    I’m a laissez-faire capitalism and I don’t agree that this position has any practical limit, if consistenty practiced. The problem, as you point out, is that we live in a society with a mish-mash of contradictory principles and laws.

    I also disagree that we shouldn’t strive for intellectual consistency. If you aren’t going to be consistent with your principles, your principles can’t be very good. If you can’t argue from moral principles, then what exactly is the point? What are you arguing for? How can you argue a position if you can’t or won’t declare that you have the moral high ground? If you don’t think you’re right, why should anyone agree with you? And if you do think you’re right, why would you not follow this “rightness” through to its logical conclusion? You see, this moral relativism and pragmatism is exactly the fighting arena the Left loves to fight in – because it will always win on those terms. I think you’ve drawn a completely false dichotomy between principles and “real world effects”. If ‘real world effects’ (whatever that might mean) are your goal, you still need principles in order to determine what the the desired effects are, and how they are to be realised. Or do you propose to achieve ‘real world effects’ by making it up as you go?

    The entire point of principles is that they are general truths about our nature, which we apply to specific instances in the real world. So, for example: if murder is wrong (because humans have a right to life, on principle), then it is always wrong – in any circumstances, for whatever reason. Claiming that there comes a point where a principle eventually gets in the way of its real world effects is a contradiction in terms; it is putting the cart before the horse.

    Getting onto the article itself: your bike analogy is flawed. It actually presupposes the collectivist position; that this country is *ours* just like our house is ours, and you may only enter by consent. But whose? A house is a limited and specific item of property, and you as the owner are a specific individual. A country is not a specific item of property that can be owned by an individual or any collective of individuals. Only parts of a country may be owned by specific individuals. It is the government’s job to protect the rights of citizens within its geopolitical limits.

    You said: “Free trade and the free movement of people are very different things, although libertarians often see an equivalence. The ‘free’ part of free trade is not just in the uninterrupted movement of goods from A to B; it’s in the voluntary consent between buyer and seller.”

    …Yes, but that’s not the starting point. Free trade, free anything, presupposes freedom itself, freedom over your life and property. You are free to walk, run, shout, scream, laugh, cry, love, think and die – if you want (and if you can). “Free” meaning ‘the absence of force’. Or in other words, our right to life. Free trade is a *consequence* of our right to life. So freedom of movement is too.

    So, far from being two different “types” of freedom, free trade and free movement are both corollaries of the physical freedom to take an action *if you are capable* of doing so. What is required to take a free action? Again, the absence of force. Since free trade is what happens when people are left free to trade (or not) with whomever they wish, free movement is exactly the same: the lack of force allows people to move wherever they wish, *if they are able*. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that in any case you can’t never violate the Rights of others. You have drawn a distinction between freedom of trade and freedom of movement but haven’t really justified it; there is no logical reason to allow one and not the other if your fundamental premise (which is the same for both), vis the banning of physical force, is consistently applied. I don’t see how you can claim a contradiction here: if people are free to trade they should be free to move.

    Now, I think you argued that freedom of movement (i.e. immigration) could be seen to violate our Rights, but only if you assume that this country itself is “our” property and one may not enter without an invite, just as one may not enter your house without an invite. But as I say this argument itself is invalid. There may be good arguments against immigration but this one isn’t it; in fact, it’s bad because it shares the collectivist premise of the Left. If we are going to counter the Left, we need to stop fighting on their terms. “We” are only a collection of individuals, society itself has no rights. “We” can no more deny an innocent person the freedom to find a job and buy a house in this country than “we” (everyone but you) can stop you getting a job and buying a home. (Assuming you can acquire both voluntarily, of course.) You can’t have a double-standard.

    Now I should add: even with an open immigration policy, it is always necessary to prevent criminals entering our borders, where possible. And so some level of regulation is required where practical and fair to prevent this from happening. This policy is consistent with libertarianism and capitalism.

    However, I agree with you that given the socialistic mess we are in, open immigration is positively suicidal. It therefore makes sense to restrict immigration until our welfare policy is changed. But only until then.

    I also agree that in the UK we have a certain culture and attitude, despite the best efforts of the Left to destroy it. We shouldn’t fear foreigners entering the UK and destroying our culture however. And despite my patriotism, I’m not going to pretend that this country has the monopoly on great culture. In fact, we have a lot to learn from other countries (such as good work ethic). I fail to see how the *physical* presence of people from other countries could erode our culture and heritage anymore than the internet, e-mail, telecommunicatons, the news, TV or the cinema does.

    As I said above, the job of our government is to protect citizens in its borders – and uphold the law. This means outlawing and ruthlessly pursuing those who violate the rights of others with swift efficient action. If our government and the police actually did their jobs, we wouldn’t have to worry about Shariah law or anything else of the sort. Muslims and others would know that coming to this country (which means, getting a job) means you leave your barbaric anti-human evil actions at the front door. Needless to say the welfare state should be drastically reduced (ideally eliminated altogether, but I know that won’t happen.) So our policy with regard to foreigners wishing to live here *should be no different than with people who do live here*: “come and go as you please, but the moment you violate the rights of another person, you’re a criminal, and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”. After all, why would we expect different standards from UK residents than foreigners?? Why would the simply fluke of being born in this country grant you any special treatment with regard to how you live your life?

    I know you can always say “but we don’t live in a utopia” and “but the country isn’t like that”. Yes, I know…but by that reasoning why bother trying to change anything? Most of us disagree with tax on principle but we wouldn’t get rid of it over night because it’s not practical. Similarly, it’s only necessary to know what the right outcome is and work towards it. Immigration isn’t the first or most important thing to address; there are other things to change before that can happen. But you can’t just look at an issue like immigration, in isolation, in a vacuum, and say “keeping all other things the same, what should be done about immigration?”. The practical reality is: we aren’t in a vacuum, and immigration can’t be satisfactorily resolved until welfare and social stability is resolved. And that can’t happen until the government stops messing around in things it has no business in and actually does the job we pay it to do: protecting the rights of its citizens, and nothing more. Now that is a country I would happily live in, regardless of the birthplace or nationality of those around me!

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Evanescent, you make some excellent points about free trade and free movement, and the collectivist premises of Mr Taylor’s argument. But especially so when you talk about principles. Which is why it’s such a shame when you bottle it, and say we have to compromise our principles, and embrace State interference ‘for the time being’.
      I would urge you, my friend, to be fully consistent on this matter, and say “principles though the heavens fall”.

    • Russell Taylor
      August 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Thanks for your reply. When it comes to intellectual consistency, the point I was trying to make is that while an idea can sound fine in principle, in practice it does not always work out. For instance, it could be stated as a point of principle that every social function should be left to the free market. But markets only work effectively if there is competition, so where there must be a monopoly in a service, such as with the armed forces, the market does not offer a satisfactory solution. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates the practical limits of a principle. I don’t think that to acknowledge these limits is to betray them or to make yourself a woolly-headed relativist.

      I stand by my free trade vs free movement analogy. If I import goods from abroad, it’s a private contract between me and a seller, which imposes no costs on others. If an immigrant arrives here uninvited, he imposes costs on me, however slight they may be, without my consent. Socialised provision is a reality, and probably always will be, and as long as this is the case, immigrants will be a drain on us as tax-paying individuals. Plus, of course, you will find that governments pass laws sympathetic to newcomers, which infringe upon your freedoms. Manage immigration better and governments will be less inclined to pass these bullshit laws.

      To touch on your other points (apologies for not addressing them all – I’m not being evasive, I just don’t have the time), I am with you in being opposed to collectivisation, but I’m willing to concede, for the reasons above, that a small amount is inevitable. You agree that we have defining culture and attitude, but where did it come from? I would suggest it is the result of best practice. Through trial and error, individuals found themselves observing particular values and practices that are conducive to the kind of society they wanted to live in. And clearly the same is true of other countries, although their histories will have led them to a different point and a different perspective. I don’t believe that all cultures are compatible, which is why I’m happy to keep out those that pose a threat to our own.

      I know I’m talking in terms of ‘our’ country. But if we, as individuals, are united by a common culture and have broadly similar ideas about what kind of country we want to live in, then there is tribal unity of purpose. I don’t think there’s anything socialistic about acknowledging this or wanting to stand up for interests that I share with like-minded people. Otherwise, what is a country but a landmass inhabited by self-absorbed strangers? If countries really are no different from each other, why not move to Mogadishu?

      As you say, we don’t live in a utopia, and we never will. As long as this is the case, I will continue to base my philosophy on what’s realistic, otherwise I’d be no better than a socialist, whose plans for us would work out just fine if we’d stop thinking for ourselves and do as we’re told. Anyway, thanks for giving my article so much thought. I’m always open to rational arguments, because I’m not a lefty. Toodle pip!

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      My friend, don’t be taken in by Ukip. They are as much of a social democratic party as the Conservatives. They favour a ban on immigration; the welfare state; the NHS; state schooling; a 40% increase in ‘defence’ spending etc, etc, etc. Farage even argued (in City A.M.) for the Bank of England to start printing money, hand over fist, to “stimulate the economy”. And the purpose of the supply-side economics they advocate is to increase State revenues.
      More radically, I would encourage you to reject democracy altogether. Now, this may be hard, as most people associate democracy with freedom. But ask yourself, what is it about a majority decision that guarantees a liberal result? If you are held up at gunpoint by three men and robbed, you are the victim of a crime. But if those three men take a vote, and the majority are in favour of beating and robbing you, what? You must go along with it, because it’s a democratic decision? A majority says it’s okay, so you must regard it as legitimate, just, the best of all political systems? No, my friend. Democracy is not liberal, it has nothing in common with genuine liberalism. Democracy is the worst form of government, despite what that villain Churchill said. It is the worst form of government, because not only is it necessarily exploitative, it is the most stable type of exploitative rule.

  4. evanescent
    August 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Rocco, thanks for your reply. I sense we are very much aligned in our thinking, but please let me assure you I would never want to “bottle” anything, nor be seen to be doing so. I support free and open immigration on the grounds of individual rights – however, the government, through its violation of those rights, has made open immigration and free welfare a case of economic suicide. Since there are literally thousands of instances of the government violating our rights by overstepping its bounds, we must repeal these violations in order of priority, in the most practical and efficient manner, and that takes time. So for example, whilst I disagree with tax, it would simply be impossible to repeal taxation over night in the current system. One would have to repeal the elements of our society that, unfortunately, rely on it, and this could take years – otherwise the infrastructure of the country would collapse. This is most definitely not a case of conceding to statism or betraying principles – it is simply the only way we can deal with this mess, because we have been *forced* to.

    Russell, your comparison of free markets to the roles of government isn’t viable. Again, it misses the fundamental premise that gives rise to the necessity of government in the first place; it makes the same critical mistake which the Left does: it doesn’t differentiate between economic power and political power (the power to trade and the power to stop; the power to create and power to destroy): government exists to protect the rights of its citizens. It does this by banning the initation of physical force. Now, for philosophical reasons that are beyond the scope of this discussion (for now), it is precisely that principle which demands a central objective unified body which is invested with our right to self defence. It is for precisely this reason: objective law, that the government (that is, the police, the law, and as you pointed out, the army) cannot be left to the free market. In a free country, everybody is free to do anything but doesn’t have to do anything. Conversely, a government isn’t free to do anything except what is has to do: unlike a citizen, the government is compelled to do something: protect its citizens.

    As you can see, a discussion of the roles of the government requires a philosophical basis. This is where moral principles come in, and why it’s essential that we define and fight for those principles, because that is the only way to win against the Left, since the Left has no consistent principles.

    “You agree that we have defining culture and attitude, but where did it come from?”

    I think there are probably too many factors to name, but history and education are the most important. Let’s not forget that “our” culture is changing all the time, and has done soo massively in the last 100 years. Less than a century ago, racism, homophobia and sexism would be taken for granted as cultural norms. Would the Russell Taylor of 100 years ago be defending that culture?

    What I think is more important to accept is that human beings are individuals, and capable of astonishing diversity, and commonality, regardless of birth. I think the most important cultural values to hold are respect for human life and freedom. If a culture has those, then let the lots fall where they fall. Certainly, whilst British people have been a great force for good in this world, British people have been a force for evil too. Probably every country in the world could say the same. My patriotism is extremely limited because there is very little I can personally take credit for, or be held responsible for. Patriotism can be healthy but nationalism is just another form of collectivism.

    I disagree that immigrants will always be a drain on “us”. Even if we accept that welfare will always exist, immigrants who find work will be a net gain on the coffers of the taxpayer. You might say that those who can’t find work would be a drain on the taxpayer…well, yes, but so are British people who can’t find work! And there are more being born every day. I don’t see why people who happen to have been born in the same geographic area as me are more entitled to money they haven’t earned than anyone else.

    Even if we concede that some form of welfare would always exist, it is not necessarily so that just anyone would be entitled to it. If the UK were known as a country with a bare minimum “safety net” (I hate that euphemism), it simply wouldn’t attract immigrants who wanted a free lunch. But it would attract immigrants who wanted to pursue a career in a relatively freer and wealthier country. My heart doesn’t necessarily bleed for people fleeing other countries simply to stay alive (due to the statist regimes they are fleeing), but it does for those honest dedicated souls who want a better life in a better home. Turning those people away in case they might become a drain, whilst millions of idiotic lazy yobbish young thugs continue to pop out kids, vandalise, steal, and claim dole, is totally abhorrent to me.

    I agree that not all cultures are compatible, but would add that this is only true if the fundamental values of those cultures are opposed. E.g. capitalist West versus fundamentalist Islam. But more critically, it is the values of individuals we should be concerned with, since it’s only individuals that can hold values anyway. If a law-abiding individual wants to move country (or anywhere!) to seek another life, by why possible moral grounds can anyone, any group, no matter how large, forbid that? What would one be protecting, on the grounds of culture, which is more important than individual freedom?

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      I have greatly enjoyed reading your comments, Evanescent. And yes, there are similarities between our ways of thinking. I just take things much further.
      It’s not for everyone clearly, but I think, regarding the “toll”, “strain” and “pressure” put on the welfare state at least, Lenin’s slogan fits beautifully: The worse the better.

      • evanescent
        August 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

        Hello again, Rocco

        I must say, I find it unlikely that there is a degree to which you would go, i.e. taking things “much further”, that I wouldn’t. I would apply my principles to their full extent and conclusion, especially with regard to the welfare state. I would indeed have it completely abolished, but I fail to see how that could be accomplished immediately, or that it is the most pressing thing to tackle. It’s near the top of the list, certainly. But as I said, the government violates our rights in *so* many ways, there are simply only so many issues can be addressed at a time. How would you deal with this, and in what timeframe?

        I ask because, if I am missing something in my outlook, I would genuinely like it pointed out to me.

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      Evanescent, I would only ask you to consider this: Why have a timeframe, why have a list, a preferred order at all? Oppose the State as and where you find it, at all times, in all cases. Abolish welfare, when? Right now. Abolish socialist healthcare provision, when? Right now. Abolish the governments monopoly on law, order, defence. When? Right now. Abolish all restrictions on voluntary trade, when? Right now.
      Why? On principle.
      Murray Rothbard was fond of quoting the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who argued for the immediate freeing of every slave, in this regard: “We have never said slavery will be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend”. And “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice”.
      (You can find these in, among other places, Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty”).

    • Rocco
      August 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      Evanescent, re-reading your comments has put a smile on my face. That “British people who can’t find work being born every day” stuff is terrific. Also, the distinction between economic and political power (although you give too much credit to the government). If I’m not mistaken, you’re a fan of Miss Rand, yes? Have you read “The Market for Liberty” by Maurice and Linda Tannehill. If not, I urge you to do so, my friend. Just google it, you can download it for free as an ebook from the Ludwig von Mises institute.

      • Rocco
        August 7, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

        Morris (and Linda Tannehill).

      • evanescent
        August 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

        Hi Rocco, I haven’t read The Market for Liberty but on your suggestion I’ll check it out. And yes, I am a big fan of Rand’s philosophy, whilst not being a fan of some of her personal opinions themselves. I was introduced to her about 6 years ago now and it was truly eye-opening and illuminating. It’s nice to have a philosophical base from which to think through moral and political problems yourself, without the pre-packaged emotion-laden garbage of the Left. But I digress…

        Thank you for the kind words. As a rule I don’t usually engage in internet discussions anymore. I did more many years and was even a moderator on IIDB. Much like James Delingpole said recently, I begin to wonder if there is any point debating with Lefties anymore. There probably isn’t. But I really like what I’ve seen of this blog so far, and although I don’t fully agree with most libertarians, like Delingpole and UKIP, I think they are the best hope we have in the current climate.

        What is refreshing when debating with “righties” like Russell Taylor is that at least we can debate with reason and hopefully a search for truth, even if we disagree, without it being an emotional bitchfest.

    • Russell Taylor
      August 8, 2013 at 7:01 am #

      If the government is compelled to protect its citizens, I would say that includes protection from immigration and all the troubles and impositions it can cause. Not all immigration, but enough that discretion is required. You agree that national identity and common values exists, and that patriotism is a valid sentiment. How, then, do you reconcile this acknowledgement of nationhood and tribal loyalty with a reluctance to protect their interests against interlopers?

      • evanescent
        August 8, 2013 at 8:07 am #

        Russell: but where is the argument that immigration in itself is a violation of anyone’s rights and therefore something we need protecting from? I don’t recognise the “troubles and impositions” you speak of. There’s only one thing we need to be rightfully worried about: criminals. If an immigrant is not a criminal they are no more a trouble or imposition than any other person, even domestically. Heaven knows there are *plenty* of troublesome British lowlifes to worry about. It is a false dilemma to ask what the government is going to do about immigrants; the government’s response to criminal elements should be the same regardless of who they are or where they come from!

        Also, you have slightly taken my words beyond their meaning. I acknowledged that patriotism is a valid sentiment, when your country has a culture you can relate to and be proud of; when it has values you share. But you inserted the words “tribal loyalty” – I most definitely do not subscribe to that. I have no loyalty to this country beyond seeking the best for it when it is in the right. It is not “my country right or wrong”. My loyalty is to the truth and to justice (sorry to sound all Superman!  ) I support whoever is *right*, regardless of nationality.

        Again, when you talk of ‘protecting interests’ you’re creating a false dilemma. There is no conflict of interests with immigration, if and of itself. The conflict arises from government interference and force; the government has baked the only cake and forces everyone to fight over it. The solution? Remove the government from the kitchen. In order to cope with one injustice we create (or tolerate) another. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Cutting the welfare state back would solve this conflict in one move.
        I personally feel no threat to my culture or heritage or values by other honest human beings seeking to live in the same country as me. In anything, that gives us even more in common! Probably a lot more than the parasites who wear the same flag as me, take everything for granted and believe the world owes them something for the accomplishment of being born. If this lazy obnoxious element of UK society was transposed overnight with an equal (or greater) number of foreigners who wanted to work, I’d jump for joy.

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 9:11 am #

        “Tribal loyalty”, Mr Taylor? Where on earth did that come from? You and I have different takes on liberalism, to be sure, but that has to be a typographical error. It must be, no? That’s not common interests, national identity, British values stuff – that’s out and out collectivism. In all seriousness “tribal loyalty” is something from Hegel, or Plato’s Republic. I refuse to believe that you meant it Mr Taylor.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 8, 2013 at 9:44 am #

        Evanescant – Libertarians are agreed on the need for a government to protect us. They differ on what we need protecting from. The list is small, as far as I’m concerned, but it would include our national interests. I don’t see Britain as just another landmass, where atomised individuals, with no common culture, no shared traditions and no mutual understanding, happen to live. I think that the values and practices that enable us to sit around in luxury, pontificating on the finer points of libertarianism, are something special and worth defending. They were arrived at after centuries of history, struggle and experience, but they could be easily destroyed if they are not looked after. Indeed, they were what once attracted immigrants to this country (although nowadays it’s largely the promise of handouts from socialist suckers).

        This is the heritage that people feel an attachment to, take pride in and want to contribute towards and protect. If the expression ‘tribal loyalty’ offends you, call it something else, but it’s a genuine phenomenon nonetheless. I think that some libertarianism struggle to understand this. Because they cannot rationalise it or reduce it to a mathematical equation, they refuse to accept its legitimacy. I find that a rather soulless outlook – like reducing a parent’s love for his child to a crude biological compulsion. No one is compelled to love this country or to appreciate its defining values, but to do so doesn’t lead us down the road towards collectivism.

        If, through an unwillingness to defend our way of life, we ended up living under Sharia Law, I wouldn’t shrug and say, “Oh well, it’s what people wanted”, because I find that ideology abominable and because I believe that negative change can come to pass against the will of the majority. Organised resistance would be required if we were invaded by a foreign power. Millions of one-man armies wouldn’t stand a chance. Well, I see the encroachment of hostile cultures and imported poverty as an invasion, and one we need to defend ourselves against.

        I said from the outset that I am a conservative, and I make no bones about that. I wish to conserve the things I consider right and proper. I wish we were in a position to do that as individuals, but regrettably there are times when the government is needed to do it on our behalf. I am not swayed by highfalutin visions that take little account of human nature, I’m afraid. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get cracking on next week’s piece! Have a good day.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 8, 2013 at 10:03 am #

        Sorry, didn’t mean that last comment as a dig, by the way! Fun debate.

  5. silverminer
    August 8, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    “I disagree that immigrants will always be a drain on “us”. Even if we accept that welfare will always exist, immigrants who find work will be a net gain on the coffers of the taxpayer. You might say that those who can’t find work would be a drain on the taxpayer…well, yes, but so are British people who can’t find work! And there are more being born every day. I don’t see why people who happen to have been born in the same geographic area as me are more entitled to money they haven’t earned than anyone else.”

    I’ll tell you why I think this is wrong, evanescent. I agree with your first sentence. An immigrant entrepreneur who starts a business and employs people is clearly not a drain, nor is a particular high skill professional who we are chronically short of, nor is a wealthy billionaire who pays plenty of tax and requires little in the way of services. I’ll all for attracting these kind of immigrants, the more the merrier.

    Where the problem starts is in the lower ranks of the labour market. A low paid worker attracts more in tax credits and public service demands than he or she will pay in taxes. I’m sure we’d agree that this isn’t an ideal situation but that’s the reality in the UK today.

    So an immigrant worker on minimum wage employee is a net drain on the exchequer particularly when the kids come along. This will change if he gets promoted but so would it have done if a British worker had been taken off the dole queue instead.

    But that’s not the end of it. The minimum wage job that the immigrant took means there is one fewer such job available to the massed ranks of British unemployed/underemployed/fake invalids/pensioners who can’t make ends meet, hence the welfare roll is one higher that it needed to be.

    Now, some would say that these are jobs that the British don’t want but that’s just BS, frankly, as the sprouts were not rotting in the fields before the flood gates were opened in 1997. Maybe they don’t want it at that wage rate relative to their alternative of remaining on benefit, but that’s just not good enough from the taxpayer’s point of view, a fact which IDS appears to have cottoned onto and is trying to do something about (albeit too little too late).

    By cutting benefits, both rates and eligibility criteria, and smoothing out the rate of taper of benefit withdrawal you restore the incentive to take low paid jobs (abolishing the minimum wage would help also).

    We really need to work through the millions of non-productive British benefit claimants who currently depend on the State for their living and get them back into the workforce before we allow any further immigration into the unskilled labour market.

    You can’t end the welfare system over night (however much it appeals to the intellectually pure) and throw the dependent people to the wolves (unless we fancy running battles in the streets?). There has to be a transition from welfare to work and that simply cannot happen when any net job creation in the economy is taken up by immigrants.

    Think about how many people there are on welfare and how many jobs the (currently moribund) economy creates each year and you get an idea of how long this might take. It might take a decade or more for this process to work through but it has to be done if we are serious about ending the dependency culture the collectivists have created.

    • evanescent
      August 8, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      Silverminer, you’ve identified the issues very nicely and assessed the problems with claimants, whether they be immigrants or domestics. I can’t disagree with any of the facts you’ve presented, but you also presented most of the solutions yourself: reducing the welfare state (to bare minimum proportions), getting rid of the minimum wage, and lowering tax – especially on the rich and corporations. The latter is to encourage the private sector to invest in business and expand, thereby creating jobs.

      You also said: ““I’ll tell you why I think this is wrong, evanescent. I agree with your first sentence. An immigrant entrepreneur who starts a business and employs people is clearly not a drain, nor is a particular high skill professional who we are chronically short of, nor is a wealthy billionaire who pays plenty of tax and requires little in the way of services. I’ll all for attracting these kind of immigrants, the more the merrier.”
      But how do you tell which immigrant is going to be the next overnight success? How do you know which ones will get jobs and be productive intelligent and hard-working citizens? I know immigrants who came here with no job, but got one and are some of the most dedicated smart honest workers I’ve ever known. They also have very good jobs now. I can’t stomach the thought of turning these people away, just in case they might not have gotten jobs. That is surely an injustice. But again, take away the welfare state and the dilemma resolves itself.

      I agree with your facts and that immigration can cause a greater drain on the taxpayer; of course it can. But there are a thousand government schemes which are an unnecessary drain on the taxpayer. Why do we frame the discussion in terms of welfare versus immigration? Why not EU membership (£25million a day <-prepared to be corrected on this, going off memory, will check my facts) versus immigration? Why not all those government quangos? The civil service? The NHS? The BBC? Foreign aid? National monument building? Green-energy-investment? Every single tax you can think of?
      It is simply unfair (and plays into the hands of politicians) to structure the debate on their terms. It seems natural to do so, because immigrants who are low- or non-earners will obviously become a drain on taxpayers (just like UK low- and non-earners), but if the counter-argument is always how it will affect the taxpayer…then forget immigration! Let’s leave the EU! Let’s cull the civil service. Let’s abolish quangos. Let’s sell off those ugly national statues which no one asked for and never build any more. Scrap the Met Office. Let’s get rid of horrible carbon taxes.

      I support immigration because I refuse to fight on the government’s terms. I’m reminded of the fuel drivers’ strike under Tony Blair. He framed the debate essentially thus: “it’s either higher tax on fuel or cut funding to the NHS”. He thereby turned the protestors into the bad guys by making it about them or the NHS, little old ladies and the unwell. Even at that age I was like ‘Errr, wait a second – why does it have to be only those two particular aspects of revenue and expenditure? Why not fuel costs versus the EU? Why not income tax versus the NHS? Why not fuel versus the price of eggs or speeding fines versus the NHS?’ It was such an obvious false dichotomy. Of course, for the large part he got away with it. And fuel prices went up and up anyway.

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. Let’s not debate the pros and cons of immigration on the artificially restricted false grounds the politicians drew up.

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 8:56 am #

        Fantastic stuff, Evanescent. But allow me to offer a small correction.
        You concede (slightly) too much to the other side. It is not true that immigrants, even low paid ones, are a drain on the taxpayer – it’s the welfare state that is the drain on the taxpayer.

    • Rocco
      August 8, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      Hello Silverminer. I hope you are well.
      Now, I am certain that Evanescent is up to the task of clearing up those problems for you, but permit me to stick my oar in, on one point at least.
      Silverminer, are you seriously suggesting that the British government should force employers against their will, to employ people they don’t want to? Force them to employ people who can’t do the jobs they must pay them for? Force them to tip their business towards bankruptcy, by hiring people who are not up to it? The British government should force people to act against their own interests? Force them to act irrationally?
      Silverminer, say it ain’t so!

      • Russell Taylor
        August 8, 2013 at 9:56 am #

        Devil’s advocate time. If you defend the right of companies to only employ who they like, why do you not defend the right of a country to only let in who it likes? Do you not recognise the validity of the nation state? Are nations not dissimilar for reasons other than their weather and geography? And aren’t those things worth defending with borders?

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 10:37 am #

        Russell, Devils advocate or not, you’re clutching at straws, my friend.
        To answer your second question first. I have made it abundantly clear that I do not recognise the validity of the nation state. The most pertinent reason (in this regard) why not, will become obvious in answering your first question.
        The private employer, the private company, and the State are not even comparable. One exists on a purely voluntary basis, and only exists as long as consent is given by all parties involved.
        The other exists by coercion, exists to coerce, continues to exist because of it’s power to coerce, and only exists as long as it’s coercion exists.
        In fact, as Evanescent pointed out to you above, to treat the State as equivalent to a private property owner, is to make the State the owner of all property (in the widest sense) in a given geographical area. It is the most comprehensive nationalisation there could be. Even if you believe government is neccessary, it is obvious that such a thing is preposterous, monstrous too.
        In short, the government should not act like a private property owner because it is not one.
        In fact, von Mises’ calculation problem argument can be applied here. So we can say, government should not act like a private property owner, because it literally cannot act like a private property owner.
        I hope you find this satisfactory, my friend. And I very much appreciate you taking the time to debate this with me.

  6. Russell Taylor
    August 8, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Don’t recognise the nation state? Then we’re never going to see eye to eye on this issue. No matter. I’m sure we have a lot else in common. Have a good day.

    • Rocco
      August 8, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      But Mr Taylor, my opposition to the nation state makes no difference. Assume I incline to a more moderate form of liberalism, you will see my argument still stands.
      Cut the state back to the bare minimum, to the night watchman state proper. Allow a level of tavern to fund the state’s proper and neccessary activities. Allow it to step in to prevent cases of market failure, and take action wherever externalities rear their ugly head. Strip my argument of all traces of plumb-line libertarianism, all traces of anarcho-capitalism.
      Do all this, and my arguments will not suffer in the slightest. (From an aesthetic point of view, some might say, they would even be improved!)
      As I said in reply to Mr Simon Roberts above, immigration considered in itself, causes no harm in the technical sense which he, I and you yourself, as a classical liberal, subscribe to. Therefore, immigration should not be prohibited.
      At least re-read my last reply to you, Russell. Ignore the opening paragraph, treat it as lunacy if you will. But when I talk about the difference between the state and a private individual, even assuming the state should exist, you must see the truth in it. You must see the fallacy, the danger, of treating the two on a par. Read my reply to Silverminer above. Even assuming a state to beneeded for the smooth running of society, you must recognise the danger in a policy that gives the government the power to force people to act irrationally. As a classical liberal, you must be hesitant about letting the government have such power; be concerned about the implications of this approach to migrants.

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 11:41 am #

        Level of taxation not tavern! The auto-correct was a little over-eager.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 8, 2013 at 11:56 am #

        I rationally wish to protect the unique qualities that differentiate this country from others. I also believe that a failure to do so will impair my personal freedom, since those qualities include a respect for the individual. Unless you understand the legitimacy of the nation state, that will never sit easily with you. I don’t defer to the state, but I acknowledge that the protection it gives to my rights can be withdrawn if it falls under the spell of hostile cultures. Hence I support immigration controls.

        I’m sure you will feel the need to reply but I really must be getting on. Have a good day.

      • Rocco
        August 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

        Ha! I’ve got the last word, so I win!
        Nah, I’m just pissing about, mate. You mind how you go.

  7. evanescent
    August 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Russell said: “Devil’s advocate time. If you defend the right of companies to only employ who they like, why do you not defend the right of a country to only let in who it likes? Do you not recognise the validity of the nation state? Are nations not dissimilar for reasons other than their weather and geography? And aren’t those things worth defending with borders?”

    My answer to this goes back to what I said earlier about the difference between economic and political power. The former is the power to create values and trade them, for which freedom is essential. The latter is the power to use force against other human beings. They are different different forms of power, in fact, polar opposites. A business must be free to do whatever it wants, assuming it violates no one else’s rights. A government however simply exists to uphold the law.

    Or in Miss Rand’s words, a citizen may do *anything* except that which is legally forbidden. A government (or politician) may do *nothing* except that which is explicitly permitted.

    Private citizens may only cooperate voluntarily. A government cannot function this way which is why it must have a monopoly on the use of force, and why this power must be extremely limited.

    You raise the question of Rights. A country has no rights. A nation has no rights. A state has no rights. Before you recoil, I urge you to stop and consider the issue fully: only individuals can think and act, therefore only individuals have rights. The ‘rights of a country’ is a contradiction in terms; if a country did have rights it would mean that it has some freedom to think and act by itself that any or all of its citizens didn’t necessarily have, which makes no sense. At most it might mean that the Rights of a country represent the rights of a majority of its citizens, but that makes no sense either, since individual rights apply to every single person in equal measure, and rights cannot “trump” other rights.

    An individual is a thinking *person* with values and choices to make. There is no such entity behind a country; there is only a large number of individuals. For sure, those individuals may elect a government to protect their rights, and even represent their interests internationally – but that doesn’t turn The Country into a living entity itself. This is collectivist thinking; seeing society itself as a living creature with citizens just cells in the great machine. It’s a totally illogical concept. It’s a product of the Left and we must reject it. Again, this is why it’s important to have philosophical principles to support one’s political stance: on the Right, we must fully embrace the principle of *individualism*. It’s the only consistent path to victory.

    I hope I’ve explained my answer fully and this makes sense. If there’s anything you’d like me to elaborate on, please ask.

  8. Miles
    August 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    What an interesting debate –
    Anyhow a few things I am unclear about – trying to fully understand the libertarian position.

    Firstly it seams that immigrants undercuttiing wages is seen as a cultural harm, yet traditionally the free, ‘global’ market is not considered a source of cultural harm if cheaper workers are found overseas – much of the bitterness about the 80’s stems from what was seen as a callous disregard of ‘local’ job loss in the face of global competition. Is it not a contradiction to raise it as an issue when the ‘cheaper’ labor come here?

    Secondly, and allied to the above, the need to get the unworking local population involved in its competitivness does sometimes need some collectivism – sometimes the right see this as did the National Socialists. They saw that the good of the nation might be helped by helping its own find a worthwhile contribution to the economic advancement of the state.

    These days both the left – they cry slavery – and the right – they cry collectivism – cannot stomach this as a solution and as such by default let the ‘free market’ to be the final arbiter.

    All this leads me to think that in the final analysis all conradictions and practical solutions are waived since in the end, it is only culture that is the problem – as quoted :

    ” I don’t defer to the state, but I acknowledge that the protection it gives to my rights can be withdrawn if it falls under the spell of hostile cultures. Hence I support immigration controls. ”

    It is the fear of hostile cultures taking over is the problem – all else is an intellectual posturing if in reality you are happy with jobs going ‘over there’ but want nothing coming over here for fear of losing rights – whilst at the same time expressing no concern for any reciprocal effects elsewhere.

    Do any libertarians believe in the toal unfettered freedom to move the means of production and import a workforce from where they can and as economics dictate, regardless of ‘local’ consequences? Is that what some are arguing for here?

    • Rocco
      August 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      Dat nazism!

  9. evanescent
    August 9, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Miles asked: “Do any libertarians believe in the toal [sic] unfettered freedom to move the means of production and import a workforce from where they can and as economics dictate, regardless of ‘local’ consequences?”

    Yes, I 100% believe in this.

    “Firstly it seams that immigrants undercuttiing wages is seen as a cultural harm”…

    …only by collectivists.

    The only way immigrants can force wages to be cut is if wages are already artifically high, or immigrants can do a better job, or if immigrants can work for cheaper (of course this is true for anyone). This can happen for many reasons but the free market is usually self-correcting in this sense. The cost of labour, like any cost, is subject to supply and demand and wages may rise and fall for many reasons. But most often when the cost of labour is artificially high it’s because of government rules, like the minimum wage. This forces jobs overseas.

    I know many people are bitter over “local” job “loss” but I really couldn’t care less.* No one has the right to a job just because they happen to be in geographic proximity to another person who just so happens to run a business. Actually think about that for a moment and realise just how ludicrous the “local” job argument actually is… (*I’m not saying I don’t care when people *lose* jobs. But that is not the same thing as *not having* a job you haven’t been offered, and complaining simply because you live locally.)

    The cost of labour, like any factor in the free market, is up for competition. If someone is willing to do your job, for cheaper – why should they not be allowed to? The reverse is: if your employer wanted to pay you *more* for doing the same job, would you object? Probably not! So what’s the difference? Whose business is it? But then, this does actually happen! There are those who want salary caps! So they want the government to stop people getting paid “too little”, and the government to stop people being paid “too much”. And who decides what is acceptable? Yeah, we all know…

    As for hostile cultures taking over, again, I simply don’t buy this. The rest of the world is not some barbaric mass of uncivilised cretins looking to displace British people and their culture. The British government has been trying to do this itself for decades! And these are the parties that some would give more power to…to dictate who enters the country?! Madness…

    The only thing to worry about from foreigners, is the only thing we need to worry about from *anyone*, Brits included: will they respect the individual Rights of other human beings? If they will, then nothing else they say and do matters. If they will, that is the single most important cultural value. Obviously there are some nasty immigrants who move here and establish their own underworld setups. These people ruin their surroundings, communities and other lives. This is terrible and despicable, but I say: 1. there are plenty of nasty British people here too, and 2. if we had a strong efficient no-nonsense non-corrupt police force, it wouldn’t be a problem. (Remember that the next time you see one of the parasites parked up all day with a speed gun.)

    Those who worry about immigrants eroding British culture need to answer two things: 1. what *exactly* and specifically do you regard as British culture that must be preserved? 2. What do you specifically fear from an immigrant that you would *never* need to fear from a UK citizen?

    • Rocco
      August 9, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, Evanescent!
      I just assumed this fellow talking about how great the nazis were was trolling. But whether he was or wasn’t, you have just summed up the entire – principled – argument, in a forthright, clear manner.

      • Miles
        August 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

        Yes thank you for making the position clear on a certain form of libertarianism.

        @Rocco – I was niether trolling nor really saying how great the nazis were in toto – obviously! However you can note that historically collectivism can achieve impressive feats without necessarily condoning the outcome of uncontrolled dictatorship – or the initial impetus – usually war or total economic collapse.

        This is a fault of certain right thinkers – becasue historically collectivism has emerged from dire political need or pressure – it is always written off entriely – obviously if you are right wing since it a diametrically opposed to your outlook – yet it re-emerges in the concerns of those that bemoan the loss of a national identity, or national pride, or the lack of a national ‘will’ to compete and get our act together.

        These paradoxes are interesting but infuriating, and are the reasons why as a ‘leftie’ I understand Evanescent or Rocco in a more clear way than the original poster.

      • Rocco
        August 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

        Yeah, good luck with that.

  10. evanescent
    August 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Miles, in terms of the “impressive feats” you ascribe to collectivism, I could question whether these feats were impressive at all if one’s goal is to further individual happiness (since any other form of happiness is nonsensical). I could also point out that any feat bought with the freedoms, wealth and blood of innocent individuals who do not freely consent, is no admirable feat at all. For moral reasons, I cannot praise any accomplishment done for collectivist purposes by collectivist means. One cannot ethically separate motives from outcomes and means from ends, because all human action is individual *volitional* action – driven by a conscious and voluntary desire; to think, to choose, to act, to achieve. Ideally, there will be no contradiction between our means and our ends, our motives and our goals, what we want to achieve and how we achieve it.

    Of course, the same cannot be said for collectives, because collectives are not living entities; they do not think and act as a volitional being. Collectives are merely collections of individuals, so when a “Collective” acts for a “greater” collective purpose, it simply means that some individuals are forcing other individuals to achieve some other end. It can mean nothing else.

    One example should suffice: if the Soviet Union would have succeeded in landing a man on the moon before the USA, what comfort, pride or even use would that be to an individual in the USSR, perhaps one of the tens of millions which was intentionally starved to death by the State? (As it happens, the USSR didn’t succeed in their attempt, but millions died in poverty anyway in the Worker’s Paradise.)

  11. Rocco
    August 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Here’s a curious thing. In Britain every child receives Child Benefit (via it’s parents, of course) for 16 years, at tax-payer expense; 16 years of “free” medical treatment and prescriptions, at tax-payer expense; 16 years of “free” schooling, at public expense; 16 years of “free” access and use of “public” “property”, in the form of libraries, swimming pools, museums, galleries etc, at tax-payer expense; and in some cases at least, 16 years “free” public transport, at tax-payer expense.
    And yet, nowhere will you see it argued that, for as long as the welfare state exists, the liberal position should be to advocate that the government enforce strict control, or even an outright ban on giving birth.

  12. andrewporter
    August 13, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    evanescent and Rocco. I have enjoyed reading your comments so eloquently stating your libertarian principles and noted with interest your comments on Democracy. What perhaps I missed was the alternative -What do you both suggests replaces the ‘dictatorship of the majority’

    • Rocco
      August 13, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Mr Porter, my answer is “nothing”.
      That is, no new (or reworking of an old) system of oppression and exploitation should replace the existing system of oppression and exploitation.
      The idea that men need a ruling class to run their lives for them is nonsense.
      The idea that one group should be given the monopoly on coercion, to be paid for via coercion of course, in order to prevent coercion is nonsense.
      So, my answer is “nothing”. Or, the laissez-faire society.

    • evanescent
      August 13, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Andrew

      Your question is essentially: what system of government would I prefer? My answer is that the only morally justifiable government is of the type I alluded to above: one which protects the individual rights of its citizens. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Now, what functions of a government are essential for it to carry out that role? What power does a government need to exercise those functions? The answer to the first is: a police force, an army, a legal system (including courts etc). The answer to the latter is: government must have a monopoly on the use of physical force.

      It is physical force which should be outlawed in society since only physical force can stop someone acting against their will. It is only physical force which destroys freedom. For this reason it should be banned from all human relationships. However, since there are those in society (and abroad) who don’t want to live by the rule of law, we have the right to self-defence which we *invest* in the government to function as neutral and objective arbiter. It is after all only physical force which can stop criminals. But most importantly, whilst a government has the right to use force, it should only do so *against criminals*. *This* is the most fundamental and critical issue when discussing the role of government: how it uses its power, and against *whom*.

      Now, there are many disputes amongst free people which don’t necessarily (or clearly) involve the use of force. That is why a legal system is essential and the use of force cannot be left to individual whim. (This is why anarchy is a stupid system.) No libertarian, or laissez-faire capitalist should ever argue that we don’t need a government. We do. The question is simply: what force should a government use against its own citizens? The answer is: unless they have initiated force against another citizen, none!

      There is nothing wrong with the democratic principle in its weak sense, as long as the government fully respects the individual rights of the very people it’s there to protect. What system of government is probably the most conducive to a free society? I’d suggest a constitutional republic with checks and balances on every aspect of government; the government being as small as possible to keep it efficient and honest, but as strong and ruthless as possible to fight criminals and foreign enemies; a republic that enshrines the principle of individual rights, and a legal system that, based on this principle, draws up all the laws and interpretations required to maintain justice. (I’m not a legal expert.)

      No such government has ever existed on earth, obviously, but the closest we came was the United States. That was before the slight flaws in the Constitution allowed the Collectivists to worm their perverse philosophy into the system.

      • andrewporter
        August 13, 2013 at 9:53 am #

        Hi evanescent, I have read one of Anne Rands books [i’m embarrassed to say I have forgotten the title] and reading your response I am in total agreement but human nature tends to obscure intent.
        People who wish to become politicians have egos that ensure there is always a creeping collectivism, they will always override the interests of the people they represent because they know best. We are always in danger of short term interests overriding long term objectives [just look at the so called war on terror]. Generally people dont think so being paid back their own money will buy their vote.
        I am despondent as to how the direction can be changed?

      • Rocco
        August 13, 2013 at 10:43 am #

        Mr Porter, as you can see, Evanescent is alot more optimistic about limited governments (with their monopoly on coercion/violence, and their monopoly on law/legislation) remaining limited governments, than I am.

  13. evanescent
    August 13, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Hi Andrew

    You’re right. Which is exactly why the role of government should be clearly specified and defined. It it were, then it wouldn’t matter who got into power because the role of politician would be administrative and not authoritarian. In short: government simply shouldn’t have the power to violate individual rights, and if it didn’t its power would be severely curtailed compared to what it is now. After that, it simply wouldn’t attract power-seeking ego-tripping adventurers looking to change the world at our expense. Those type of people, if they really did want to try and change the world, would have to do it the old-fashioned way: by reason, and not a gun to the head.

    Unfortunately, I really don’t think things will change in the near future (or at all) because most people are collectivists and they don’t even know it. The cultural war, which the Left has won, needs to be re-fought before anything will change.

  14. evanescent
    August 13, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Rocco

    Using force against criminals who have initiated its use isn’t violence. As long as the government doesn’t use force against innocent citizens there is nothing to fear from it. But this needs to be codified and enshrined in a constitution to forever prevent abuse. As I say, there is a place for government, because without it society would necessarily descend into gang-based statism, with those of the greatest numbers and biggest guns becoming de facto rulers. This is why statism and anarchism are two sides of the same lawless coin. If you doubt this, or to those who have suggested that self-defence and law be treated like commercial issues to be left to the free market, I’ll let Miss Rand have the say:

    “Suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.”

    • Rocco
      August 13, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      Evanescent, my friend, Miss Rand’s argument proves too much. For every person in each country today is in precisely the same condition of “anarchy” , vis a vis every other individual in every other country. For example, if a Frenchman assaults you whilst he is here on holiday, what? Do Britain and France begin preparing for war? Even in the current state of the world are there not legal procedures to deal with such cases?
      If you look at Miss Rand’s argument closely, you will see that if it is true, if there really is a problem here, then the only solution is for a single world government to be instituted.
      I know you will give this careful consideration, my friend.

      • evanescent
        August 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

        Hi Rocco. I’m not entirely sure what conclusion you’ve drawn here, or what you’re inviting me to conclude. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood?

        To answer your first question: if a crime is committed in a country, it is properly the law of that country which applies, ideally. Whilst it is a government’s job to protect its citizens within the boundaries of its authority, I don’t believe this precludes action against a foreign power, if necessary and politically appropriate. But I can’t say exactly where the line should be drawn in such a short reply. It goes without saying that one simply shouldn’t travel to countries which don’t respect individuals rights, the law of rule, and where political protection isn’t secured. If you do, you do so at your own risk and I don’t think your government should come calling at your beck and all when you get yourself into trouble abroad.

        Now, the ideal solution is not in fact for a single world government, and that can’t be concluded from anything Rand said. What one should conclude, not necessarily from Rand, but from plain common sense, is that if any state of affairs is ideal, one should wish for it to apply everywhere, all the time. Therefore the ideal scenario is for *all* governments to be of the same moral makeup; a government being the objective arbiter in a geopolitical region. There is no prescription at all on how many governments in the world should exist or what region they should cover – only that inasmuch as a government is freely chosen by a group of people then only *that* government should “govern” those people. For practical reasons, a single world government could never work unless every nation on earth shared the same ethical and political principles, which is about as far into the future as FTL travel and matter/energy transporters.

        (Incidentally, the very fact that most countries on earth have so many competing ethical and moral principles and wildly conflicting interests (due to corrupt governments), is precisely why multi-national federations are unacceptable and we should have nothing to do with them. *cough – EU cough* )

      • Rocco
        August 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

        Evanescent, Miss Rand says that if people within one geographical location are allowed to have different security providers, then this is anarchy, and the result will be gang warfare as soon as, eg, I (who am a customer of securi-max) am accused of robbing you (who are a customer of protecto-corp). Therefore each geographical area must have one security provider alone, to cover all residents.
        My point was that this “anarchy” is what actually exists in the world currently. There is no overarching security provider for both Britain and France, so the local security providers (the British and French governments) are gangs, and Britain and France, or rather the individuals who compose them, are in a state of anarchy. This applies to every country. Hence, to avoid anarchy at a worldwide level, we must have a single security provider, that is a single government, covering the whole world.
        I hope this has cleared things up.
        Incidentally, The Austrian Way fellow has a column on immigration policy up today on this site. It might get interesting in the comments later. If it heats up, I hope you will join me on the barricades, my friend.

      • evanescent
        August 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

        “Miss Rand says that if people within one geographical location are allowed to have different security providers, then this is anarchy, and the result will be gang warfare”

        Not just geographical area, because the obvious question is: what particular area do you choose and where do you stop? That’s why I used the word ‘geopolitical’ because a government can’t exercise authority beyond its boundaries for obvious reasons (under normal circumstances).

        The important distinction with governments is that the people of a particular region voluntarily appoint a guardian. Your comparison between competing governments in a single country and the many governments of the world isn’t valid. The people of the world have not freely chosen a unified body as their government so the many different governments we see aren’t competing, because none of them are trying to govern the entire world. (Although, I’m sure the EU bureaucrats would love nothing more.) So the analogy is flawed. For sure, individual governments function like gangs with the biggest one getting its way, but the global political scene doesn’t work this way. The “problem” which you say Rand identified is *not* how the world is governed, but how governments govern their own citizens. Therefore the ‘only solution’ you deem necessarily isn’t applicable.

        The orderliness of the world isn’t something we can or should rightfully be concerned with because it’s outside the scope of any person or government to deal with. The only thing that matters is whether a particular government (ours) is doing its job properly.

        As for the forthcoming article today, I’m happy to add my voice to the side of reason, but if the debate has so many participants and gets heated, I’d only end up repeating everything I’ve said here. It might be easier to simply link here for my views on immigration.

      • Rocco
        August 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

        My friend, Miss Rand opposed competing governments within a given region, because she believed it would neccessarily lead to gang warfare between those competing governments. To prevent this she advocated a single government for each region. Under this government the relations between men are not anarchic.
        This is a fair and accurate statement of her position in “On the nature of government”, yes?
        Now, my point is that, as people in say, Britain and Tajikistan, who share the region known as ‘the world’, don’t have a single government, their populations must be in a state of anarchy vis a vis each other, and their respective (competing) governments are gangs vis a vis each other.
        Therefore, to avoid anarchy and inevitable gang warfare should a resident of one country be accused of a crime by a resident of the other country, Britain and Tajikistan must be governed by a single government. In fact, as those two countries are merely examples, standing in for any and all countries in the world, the only conclusion we can draw (if Miss Rand is correct), is that we must have one government providing security for the whole world.
        Now, Miss Rand did not argue for One World Government. She was quite happy with ‘competing governments’ at a national level. So, if they work at national level, why not at local level?

      • evanescent
        August 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

        Roccos said: “Miss Rand opposed competing governments within a given region, because she believed it would neccessarily lead to gang warfare between those competing governments. To prevent this she advocated a single government for each region. Under this government the relations between men are not anarchic.”

        Yes, but not just this – it also means that *no* government leads to anarchy for the same reason.

        “This is a fair and accurate statement of her position in “On the nature of government”, yes?”


        “Now, my point is that, as people in say, Britain and Tajikistan, who share the region known as ‘the world’, don’t have a single government, their populations must be in a state of anarchy vis a vis each other, and their respective (competing) governments are gangs vis a vis each other.”

        No. First because not all governments are equally valid (and just) and not all should be recognised as legitimate. And also for the reasons I mentioned above: the world is not a geopolitical region. It is a *collection* of geopolitical regions. A geopolitical region is one in which the citizens of that region have identified themselves as being of a particular unified state. (There is no legitimate starting point for such a state; it could be a village or a town, but for practical reasons (most usually geography) this isn’t the case. But it could be Wales, Scotland etc). This state has an objective and clearly demarcated recognised boundary. Anything within the boundaries of such a state are considered its territory. It is within this boundary that a government is ethically bound to protect its citizens.

        So from this, it’s clear that you cannot compare governments competing within the same territorial restrictions to the many governments of the world ruling their regions. As I say: the governments of the world are not competing for sole rule of the world anyway, and most importantly the world is not a geopolitical region in itself to be governed. What you’ve done is commit the fallacy of composition. As long as people choose to identify themselves in national bodies (and this is not a bad thing) and as long as other such bodies with different laws exist, people in those states must have a government to identify where one set of laws end and another begins. These many different States are incompatible and inharmonious yes, and they often clash and oppose each other, but they are not competitive because they aren’t trying to govern the *same* group of people. Your comparison would only be valid if everyone in the world declared themselves citizens of earth and *not* of any particular nation and demanded a unified government to protect their rights. But since the vast majority of people don’t identify themselves that way (and probably never will, and I’m not saying they should), it’s irrelevant.

        What is a valid concern is if one government accuses a citizen of another country of a crime. If the accused citizen is in a country which has a very low respect for the rule of law, I can’t really say what should happen here. The steps the “innocent” country should go to depend on so many factors that I couldn’t possibly prescribe the appropriate action to take (ranging from political sanctions to full invasion). But if we assume both countries have a fairly decent sense of justice then the “holding” country must decide if the accused citizen has indeed broken the law based on their truest interpretation of their law. (Violating the rights of another person is still a crime in country A even if your victim lives in country B!) Are these governments competing? Not really. Not if their aim is to bring a man to justice and not make law over the same geopolitical boundaries.

        Finally, I want to make a point of the use of government: there are some practical reasons why a rights-respecting democracy is a valid government for allowing citizens to reach agreements by consensus on issues which don’t compromise individual liberty. If those issues are local, national and geographically determined, it is simply natural for those organisations to be limited and smaller (in all fairness, I can’t imagine many such issues on a national level, but certainly local – like councils and town halls). This is why global government is a bad idea in my opinion and why it should never happen. It’s interesting to note that those who do wish to advance a globalist agenda can only do so by eroding national sovereignty, and circumventing the process of elected officials and established government and placing those offshore in the hands of an unelected elite who have very different ideas about what constitutions law and order. For a perfect example of this, see the EU. This is why it is very important to fight for national sovereignty. Not for tribal collectivist reasons, but to keep our government *ours* and keep it, at least in theory, checked and elected. (Which is why we need to kick LibLabCon out).

      • Rocco
        August 13, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

        Evanescent, I appreciate your valiant efforts to save Miss Rand, I really do. But you are missing the point.
        Go back to the argument against competing governments -more properly, competing defence agencies, but I’ll use Miss Rand’s term. She is arguing against people choosing different security providers, nothing more.
        In her argument, imagine that Mr Smith and Mr Jones live either side of a national border. That is, they have different security providers in the form of different governments. Let’s say Mr Smith lives in France on the border with Spain, Mr Jones lives in Spain on the border with France. Smith suspects Jones has robbed him.
        What happens? Well, what doesn’t happen is France and Spain ready for war. Smith goes to the French police, that is, his particular security provider. They, in accordance with preexisting procedures set out for just such eventualities, petition the Spanish police (that is Joness’ particular security provider) to allow them to interview Jones about the allegation. This they do, or atleast some arrangement is reached peacefully, and the matter is investigated.
        This is how out works with national governments at present. Despite different people having different security providers, countries do not descend into war with each other every time something like this happens.
        There is absolutely no reason to believe that this would not also be the case in a world without monopoly security providers (governments). Rather, private security providers could be rationally expected to out-perform monopolists in this area, just as private enterprise outperforms monopoly in every other.

      • evanescent
        August 14, 2013 at 8:27 am #

        Hi Rocco

        to be fair, I really don’t think Ayn Rand needs saving. I think her arguments can stand on their own without my comments, and I think my comments stand on their own about why private government is a contradiction in terms.

        A private government is one in which any number of individuals attempt to enforce their version of law and justice. Competing governments *necessarily* means a competing set of laws, since if any group decided that another’s version of law wasn’t acceptable they’d simply form their own agency to enforce their law. Despite the fact that all but the mentally disabled are capable of rationality doesn’t mean that everyone can be expected to be in every event, all the time, consistently (especially in a case where emotion is high and judgement is compromised), or that one will understand every aspect of the law. It’s bad enough with one set of laws, so imagine potentially countless in the same geographical area! Some believe that the death penalty is the only appropriate response to murder. Some don’t. Some believe that rapists should be executed or castrated. Some believe that foreigners shouldn’t enter “their” country and some don’t mind. Some believe that *everyone* in the country should pay tax? Some refuse. Who collects it? You sort that out! Whose law applies? Whose justice is executed? Which set of laws can any citizen be expected to understand and follow? And why should he? After all, private government is voluntary – it has to be! If it’s not, then who forces you to even have one in the first place? If you reject all private governments, which one has authority over you? Which one forces you to succumb to their law, and how? And why? What’s to stop you forming your own government of one, and shooting dead anyone who approaches your front door, or looks at you the wrong way? Who’s to say you’re wrong? Whose law is interpreted? Who do we appeal to?

        And since private governments are financed in a business model, the aim will be to pursue profit not justice. Our current governments are corrupt enough with the present mingling of political and economic power. Imagine a government where profit came first, and where law was determined by shareholder vote (which it would be). There would be nothing stopping competing governments trying to put the other out of business by violent means, by actual warfare – after all, who would stop them? (The reason this doesn’t happen amongst governments today is because governments don’t challenge the sovereignty of others. If this happens, it’s called war.) And private governments would attract parasites and dictators even worse than the ones who become politicians today.

        Follow this through to its logical conclusion: competing governments would necessarily continue to fracture and devolve into smaller and smaller fundamentalist factions trying to enforce an ever more particular and bespoke version of local justice. Imagine areas where extremely militant nationalistic English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish assemble. Or fundamentalist Christians or Muslims setting up their private government. Would you like to live under that law? Why not? Who’s to say your wrong? Who do you appeal to?

        The notion of private government really just makes no sense at all. It is an idea floating in a vacuum without any philosophical foundation. It is really no different that the Left’s demand for bigger government; it’s just as baseless. There is only one version of the truth; something is either just or unjust, right or wrong. You cannot have competing versions of justice, therefore you cannot have competing laws over the same people. The fact that there are different unified governments in the world just means that some countries have it wrong. But a particular country’s law must be unified.

        To be honest I’m surprised this is even a hot topic because private government is such a daft idea (no offence to anyone) it doesn’t stand up to even a cursory examination and isn’t founded on any moral principles. Anyway, I think I’ve identified the main problems with it but I really don’t want to say much more on this topic. For one, it’s getting off the topic of this article on immigration and secondly I would just repeat myself. Rocco, if you want to read some quotes from Rand herself on anarchism: I’m not suggesting that you should take her word as gospel or the final say – I’m just provided more background if you wish to understand her position better.

      • Rocco
        August 14, 2013 at 9:35 am #

        Evanescent. I don’t believe you to be the type Rand worshiper who won’t believe anything she didn’t, so I will try once more.
        After that, we may have to agree to disagree. But in any case do please read “The market for liberty”. It builds on Miss Rand’s ideas, very respectfully, and, should it not be your cup of tea, it is quite short.
        Think back to horsemeat thing, a mere case of mislabelling, but it caused a big fuss. Within two days tesco had striped all it’s shelves, nationwide, of anything with the slightest chance of being ‘contaminated’. Why? Because it is a private business and, even given it’s size, if it wants to survive it has to respond to public demand. Imagine the State ever moving so fast in response to public demand! It never has, and it never will, because not only is it a monopoly, it’s a compulsorily funded monopoly. It doesn’t have to move, and when it does it does so for the benefit of state employees, not citizens.
        Now, the problem Rand raises is the very first concern (often the only concern) people raise when the private production of security is discussed. Given what we know about private enterprise, how it depends on consumer trust, confidence, and above all voluntary payment, for its very existence, it would be economic suicide for any firm not to tackle this issue. That is, no private security provider would even dream of going into business, if it couldn’t tell it’s customers -when they inevitably ask- “yes, we have standing agreements and procedures in place, so that if you are the victim of a crime by someone not on our books, justice will still be fine”.
        Think of car insurance. There is no national monopoly car insurance provider. And no-one would argue for one. If I’m insured by LV, and you by Zurich, and I crash into the back of you it’s not a problem. LV and Zurich don’t descend upon my home, the one to attempt to drag me off for justice, the other to attempt to hold of the hordes to protect their man. No. Because customers don’t want that, they want peaceful solutions, so peaceful solutions are found because the customer is always right.
        Now,.imagine a car insurer who said “sorry, if your hit by someone insured by some other firm, theres nothing we can do about it. Its not like you can expect us to enter into agreements with other firms, in order to provide you with peace of mind, is it?”. How long would such s firm stay in business for? Who would give it their custom?
        Now, if this problem can be solved today by car insurers (and every other insurance provider), it is irrational to deny that it could be solved by private enterprise in the production of security.
        Evanescent, my friend, please give this matter some more consideration. And do please read that book.

      • evanescent
        August 14, 2013 at 10:03 am #

        Rocco, whilst I’m sure there have been people who just parrot everything Ayn Rand said, I personally haven’t met any Objectivists who I’d describe as a Rand “worshipper”. Personally, I don’t care that much what she was like as a person – only if what she said and wrote makes sense. For the record nor do I agree with every single thing she personally believed. However, my agreeing with you on this matter isn’t a question of whether I blindly agree with Rand or not – it’s a question of reaching a rational conclusion from moral principles – and you’ve not provided a case for this.

        What is missing from your examples of private companies (or individuals) cooperating together is that there *is* something which allows them to do so without any threat of force and with an objective unified body of laws to appeal to which applies to everyone equally in case of disputes: the government. It is this objective legal framework which allows for voluntary cooperation between people and even competing companies. It also provides a single court of appeal in cases of fraud or harm. For example, whilst Tesco voluntarily chose to withdraw their product for commercial reasons, there are many examples of private companies covering up their dishonesty and fraud, even if such actions harm their customers. Examples of this can range from the very minor to the very serious, like a product being mis-sold or mislabelled to a drug having unintended side effects. Not every single bad thing is intentional or foreseeable. Accidents can happen in trade. There are rogues and thieves too. But under your system, anybody could, in theory (and this actually would happen, because it already does) simply refuse to act, or deny any claim from a customer. I agree that most of the time companies act in their self-interest, and that of their customers – but that’s not the point. And let’s not forget that an objective body of justice keeps people honest because they know they can take the other side to court in cases of violation of contract etc. Your system however would have no guarantee of objective legal protection against force and fraud, and would be immediately vulnerable to the very first immoral businessman (or individual) who chose to exploit someone else. “Here, take this magical elixir – you will grow a metre in two days!” Two days later you ask for your money back. He refuses. What do you do? (You could say: ‘but this could happen now!’ Yes it could, but at least we can arrest such people now because they have *broken the law* – *THE* law, the only one which exists – the one which everyone knows and which applies to all, where the consequences are clear and known ahead of time – and universally applied. Under your system, you have no such legal framework since the other party can simply refuse (even for genuine reasons; they might truly believe you are in the wrong, take Apple V Samsung for example) and who decides? Lawyers on both sides might disagree. His police force backs him and yours backs you. Now what?)

        Or to use one of your examples: you are hit from behind by another car. Let’s say due to his reckless driving. The damage to your car is £2000. He isn’t insured. He refuses to pay. What do you do? And I don’t really see that you’ve overcome the many problematic questions I raised in my last post.

        With all due respect, my friend, I think it’s you who needs to reconsider this issue. However, since this is off topic and I have no desire to “convert” you anymore than you do me, I’m also happy to drop the subject if you believe we can’t progress on it.

      • Rocco
        August 14, 2013 at 10:43 am #

        Just quickly, car insurers do offer protection against insured d drivers already.
        Also your forgetting about ostracism in social society. In a world without States, the threat of being ostracised by society at large, would be an immense force. By itself, the threat of ostracism would keep the majority of those tempted to engage in shady business practices, or individuals considering aggression, in line. Who would want to deal with businesses with bad reputations, with a history of underhanded activity? Which security agency would want aggressive persons, or firms on their books? The threat of being tarred with tre same brush, with customers packing up en masse, with going bust, would prevent it in all but the rarest instances.
        Regarding objective law, you should consider why you believe it wouldn’t exist without government to enforce it. The market would enforce it! That is individuals through their preference for fixed rules, their preference for knowing the most likely consequences of their actions in advance, would, through the decisions they make in th free market, enforce such objective laws. Government is superfluous.
        In the apple/samsung question, if lawyers cannot come to a solution satisfactory to both sides,.they would take it to an arbitration body that would have been specified in advance, in case agreement could not be reached in the first instance. If this body finds against apple, and apple publicly refuses to accept the judgement, then what? It would find itself ostracised by individuals, businesses, society at large. Who would want to be sen to do business with s company that flouts justice? Who would want to be associated with such a rogue firm? Who would want to be found guilty in the court of public opinion, by having anything to do with such lawless bandits? No-one. And that is why apple -or any other company, or private individual- would submit to arbitration, would submit to law, would submit to justice. The free market would ensure it. Government is superfluous.

  15. evanescent
    August 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Rocco, your scenario is just a bunch of what-ifs and maybes – without foundation. For an orderly society where individual rights are objectively defined and protected we need something a little more robust than the threat of possible social ostracism. You’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater; just because governments today are corrupt doesn’t mean the institution of government itself is wrong. You want to get rid of it altogether for no other reasons than 1. you don’t like it and 2. you think we could probably do without it. That is not a solid philosophical foundation. And again, you’re only presenting hypothetical scenarios where your preferred society might work, ideally, where no serious conflicts arise. You haven’t addressed all the other problems I have raised, like the Army of One, or citizens who simply refuse to recognise any private law enforcement agency, or where competing agencies both genuinely believe they are in the right, etc.

    To continue with the Apple/Samsung point, you said: “In the apple/Samsung question, if lawyers cannot come to a solution satisfactory to both sides,.they would take it to an arbitration body that would have been specified in advance, in case agreement could not be reached in the first instance.” I think you have proved the case for government for me. Let’s take this “arbitration body” – it needs to be external to the concerned parties, yes? It needs to be objective, yes? It needs to have an understanding of all the legal details, yes? It needs to be universally recognised as fair and impartial, and respected by both sides, yes? It needs to enforce the conclusions it arrives at to make sure that all parties abide by the correct decision, yes? It needs its own enforcement agency for such a purpose in order for that agency to be independent from all other such agencies, yes? So…if we had to give this “body” a name, what would that be? What role in society would this “arbitration body” take? And the answer is: government.

    The argument is technically over at this point. You’ve already conceded the need for an objective independent legal framework and a body to interpret that framework and have it enforced. I choose to call this body government. You’d rather not and prefer it to be a private corporation, but for all the reasons I’ve explained such a body can never be objective and independent and also private. We already agree on the distinction between economic and political power; the use of FORCE is the only thing in society that shouldn’t be left to the free market. In fact, your arbitration body is not in fact a free market in action! In a free market, market forces and personal choice alone dictate the outcome. This is exactly the opposite to how justice works. Appealing to an objective body outside the concern of market forces or individual whim to decide the correct course of action is not a free market, not if the parties are *forced* to abide by a decision they don’t agree with. In a free market people are free to trade or not to trade and the goal is profit. But with justice, the goal is doing the right thing and it’s not a question of market forces or personal choice – it’s about right and wrong – *objectively* defined right and wrong.

    But to finish off the Apple scenario: the arbitration body reaches a conclusion, but Samsung still disagree. You can say what-if, but I can too: let’s say they refuse to go along with the discussion reached. Now what? Who makes them? Who enforces justice? Do you really expect that Samsung will seriously lose any market share over a patent decision that simply doesn’t concern any of its customers? In fact, given that Samsung customers probably stand to benefit from any success Samsung has (regardless of the legal correctness of such a benefit which they don’t care about, like the shape of a handset) they will support Samsung all the more! Samsung customers want Apple to lose. Apple customers want Samsung to lose. Both companies want to please their customers. But in such a stalemate, no resolution has actually been reached. Justice has not actually been done.

    You need objectivity to function. This is true from traffic lights to law. Even if, *if*, we accepted that maybe society could function somehow without an objective legal framework and a unified body to enforce that framework (which it couldn’t), why on earth would you push so hard to dispense with it, just for the sake of not having a government? It’s so impractical and messy and capricious that we might as well just institute a single government and be done with all the confusion. This is what Rand meant when she talked of anarchism as a floating abstraction just existing in a vacuum without concept or context. It really just makes no sense.

    • evanescent
      August 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      And to further solidify the argument, looking at the “arbitration body”, how many arbitration bodies can exist in a society? Can we have competing arbitration bodies? Can we have an arbitration body for other arbitration bodies? And do we need another arbitration body that all those can submit to? Where does it end? And how does any of this presuppose one version of the truth, one version of justice? This is the argument from a reductio ad absurdum. A final single voice must necessarily exist to avoid an infinite regress. This is about as watertight a philosophical case as one can make.

      • Rocco
        August 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

        If you read my comments again, you’ll notice that I have answered all your objections already. But if you insist on this turning upon the word ‘government’ , you may want to consider that the difference between voluntary and coercive is not a small one.
        On ostracism you’ll see, in the tesco example, it already exists to a great degree. At present business ostracism is prevented from reaching it’s full height, through State intervention, and State subversion of market forces. In private life, ostracism already exists to a high level (criminals are a minority, and the number of people happy to associate with them is incredibly small for example), but out is hampered by State interference (people disregard their peers, because the State acts as a substitute).
        Yes, of course a final say has to be reached at some stage. The point is that it doesn’t have to come from a coercive monopoly.
        And that stage where there is an end to a matter, will be reached because those involved want it to come. The market is enough. Two parties to a dispute want the matter to be resoved as quickly and painlessly as possible. They don’t want the costs,.and they don’t want the stigma involved with drawing it out forever.
        Can we have competing arbitration bodies? Of course! Just as we have computing insurers today, just as we have competing shoe manufacturers today. For example, you and I enter into a contract. In that contract is a clause that says of either of us breaks the contract, they are liable for whatever. Also in that contract is specified that if either party disagrees about being lisle, we go to arbitration body X and let them decide. Note, ask this is voluntary. We could write it into the contract that if either party disagrees with the first result of arbitration, then at that parties expense we will seek arbitration with another body etc. Now since neither of us wants this process to go on indefinitely (due to costs, and the risk of getting a bad reputation for such behaviour) we will specify a final arbitration body, who will settle the m matter. If the party who is judged to be in the wrong then refuses to voluntarily pay the penalty, for some reason, the private security provider of the victorious party will step in and force compliance. Note, there is nothing wrong with using aggression against aggressors. I am an anarcho-capitalist, not a pacifist.
        If this seems far fetched to you, remember there are civil courts and arbitration bodies already operation ask over the world right now. And individuals and businesses comply with their rulings, not because the State commands them to, but because of the social and market pressures already at work, even now.


  1. Weekly RoundUp: 4th-10th August | - August 9, 2013

    […] Sunday saw the first of our new Science segments with John Duffield on the topic of Fairytale Physics. Whilst Marx on Monday recounts his strange meeting with the President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas. This week the Austrian Way asked a question that even Ron Paul struggles to answer, what the f*ck happened to Alan Greenspan. And Russell Taylor went head to head with RGTyler offering a different viewpoint on immigration and border control. […]

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