Roads, Balkanisation and Regulation of Monopolies

In response to some of the points made by others since my last article on immigration[1] I have decided to write this. Some additional points are going to be made which will hopefully make earlier ones easier to grasp.

The first point I will resolve, in response to Sam Bowman’s brief response, is this ludicrous idea that government property is unowned. Bowman writes “You say that “Somebody though, must own them”. But you give no justification for this. As we’ve seen above, in most cases where there is no clear owner we treat things as being unowned.” Public property is not, though, yet to be homesteaded. It has been used for years and it is clear from whom the state has confiscated the property and equally it is clear from whom the state has not confiscated the property. In addition to the expropriation of the land itself, taxation pays for its upkeep; may we not say that those who have been taxed have a claim to public property, or is taxation perfectly just? It is much better to think of public property as that of a criminal’s property rather than that of virgin land that humans are yet to discover. Indeed, to resolve this misunderstanding I can do no better than to quote Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

“…this analogy between public property and unowned resources is mistaken. There exists a categorical difference between unowned resources (open frontier) and public property. Public property is the result of state-government confiscations – of legislative expropriations and/or taxation – of originally privately owned property. While the state does not recognize anyone as its private owner, all of government controlled public property has in fact been brought about by the tax-paying members of the domestic public. Austrians, Swiss, and Italians, in accordance with the amount of taxes paid by each citizen, have funded the Austrian, Swiss, and Italian public property. Hence, they must be considered its legitimate owners. Foreigners have not been subject to domestic taxation and expropriation; hence, they cannot be assumed to have any rights regarding Austrian, Swiss or Italian public property.”[2]

And probably the most important public property is that of the roads. Roads can pretty much take you to every house in the country and most citizens have equal access to them. Economists love them; roads facilitate interregional trade and lower transaction costs and, of course, they are the ultimate public good. A few little inconveniences are caused by them though as they can either act as a barrier between two homes or as a way of keeping homes closer together. Potholes and speed bumps, are tiresome too.

But roads are, contrary to the popular belief of economists and statists, just one part of a greater and more sinister plan. As well as allowing the state and its agents the equal access that it wants to your home and your neighbour’s, the over production of roads, mass-immigration and anti-discrimination laws are all inter-linked. They all comprise some great plan of the ruling class to balkanise the people – that is, to ensure that they are successfully turned against each other, for example women versus men, blacks versus whites, gays versus Christians ad infinitum. Balkanisation is the word used by Sean Gabb in a speech of his. Gabb says that “…they wish to Balkanise England into groupings more suspicious of each other than willing to combine against the ruling class. State-sponsored mass immigration has been the most obvious evidence of this desire. Filling the country with people of different colours and with different ways, who do not like each other, and do not like and are not liked by the natives, is ideal Balkanisation.”[3] This idea also features in Hoppe’s works, though he uses the term ‘atomisation’ to describe the weakening of the people against the state. Hoppe writes that “Forced integration is a means of breaking up all intermediate social institutions and hierarchies (in between the state and the individual) such as family, clan, tribe, community, and church and their internal layers and ranks of authority. In so doing the individual is isolated (atomized) and its power of resistance vis-a-vis the state weakened.”[4]

Something else worth saying to the libertarian proponents of a non-discriminatory immigration policy is that we certainly do not live in a stateless society and it is pointless trying to analyse the situation in places like Tower Hamlets as if we did. Furthermore, we are not still talking about the settlement of small numbers of people from Ireland but we are talking about an unprecedented flow of people from all over the world. And though our supposed aim, as libertarians, is to loosen state controls, it should also be a priority to try to ensure that whole areas of the country do not fall into the hands of those who wish to disintegrate our ways. As we live in the reality of a statist world, it is incredibly difficult to realise the goal of liberty simply by sitting back and doing nothing. [5]

Indeed, the goal of libertarianism is not just ‘to maximise freedom’. Whose freedom? Why and when? Would it not maximise the freedom of a criminal if he was not brought to justice? The complex issue of immigration is rather similar to that of whether or not we should, as libertarians, regulate Royal Mail – or the Post Office for the benefit of any American readers. If we allow the company (which has a state enforced monopoly) to charge whatever prices it wants for stamps then it will certainly make more profits and it will be much freer to do what it wants. However, this is clearly not the libertarian solution; the libertarian solution is to remove the state entirely from the area of mail delivery and to rid the market of artificial monopoly and not to merely allow the current monopoly to usurp its power even more. But, if that can’t be done immediately, then we must not settle for a policy that will sanction even more aggression. We can think of it as a trade-off between two evils: either we continue to regulate the state monopoly or we allow the state monopoly more ‘liberty’ to charge higher prices on the exploited customers. And I know which I prefer of the two policies.

How does this apply to the immigration debate? Well, again, ideally the solution is to remove the state completely and to allow ‘immigration’ to be dealt with by the tiny decision-making units known as individuals. But, while this is not an option, there must surely be a policy which will not merely maximise ‘freedom’ but which will reduce the scale of the violations of the property rights of the public.

There are, broadly speaking, two ways in which immigration policies have been observed to have worked throughout history: one policy is that of a monarchy and the other is that of the present day democratic egalitarian states.  In a monarchy, the king or queen acted as if he or she owned the country and would therefore act in order to maximise property values. In a democracy, the ruler is only in an interim position – that is, he is only the caretaker of the country – and so he has little concern for the long-term prosperity of the country, as can be seen in the reckless actions of central bankers who are all too happy to induce a credit-fuelled boom which will end in a bust. The sort of immigration policy which a monarch would set would be one of strict discrimination against anybody who might lower the value of ‘his’ property whereas, conversely, a democratic ruler is more likely to want uneducated bums to settle in the country as they will be much more likely to support his egalitarian measures. It could be said that a monarchy attempts to emulate how private property owners would exercise their rights to association in order to maximise wealth and reduce the probability that people will come into conflict with one another – monarchies were certainly not egalitarian, nor, coincidentally, did monarchies care about political correctness. Anti-discrimination laws and mass-immigration alike did seldom feature in a monarchy.

I am very happy to say that I support a very anti-democracy and un-majoritarian solution to the problem of immigration: a swift programme of secession, decentralisation and devolution to the point where only tiny decision-making units remain that can then decide who may or may not enter their village, hamlet or cul de sac. This will allow private property rights to one day be easily assigned to public property which will finally get to the nub of the issue. As de Soto writes “…conflicts would be minimized precisely to the extent that private property rights became effective and were extended to include resources at present considered to be publicly owned. Until total privatization can take place, the use of public goods must be regulated…”[6] And so, until the day when the amount of public property that exists is negligible, the state should regulate the use of them, rather like the state regulates the activities of state enforced monopolies like the police and Royal Mail instead of letting them do as they please. These ‘regulations’ relating to immigration would take the following form “…distinguishing strictly between “citizens” (naturalized immigrants) and “resident aliens” and excluding the latter from all welfare entitlements. It means requiring as necessary, for resident alien status as well as for citizenship, the personal sponsorship by a resident citizen and his assumption of liability for all property damage caused by the immigrant. It implies requiring an existing employment contract with a resident citizen; moreover, for both categories but especially that of citizenship, it implies that all immigrants must demonstrate through tests not only (English) language proficiency, but all-around superior (above-average) intellectual performance and character structure as well as a compatible system of values – with the predictable result of a systematic pro-European immigration bias.”[7]

Finally, the idea that the logical conclusion to be drawn from my argument is that Christians can legitimately remove non-Christians from the streets and roads stems from my statement that all taxpayers are absolute owners of government property. I concede that this is contradictory and yet the state is a contradiction. To use Hoppe’s words, the state is “…a property protector who may expropriate the property of the protected through legislation or taxation.” Thus, when dealing with the state we must expect a good deal of contradiction and impossibility. And so, in response to Allrik Birch[8], yes they are both absolute owners (the hypothetical Christians and non-Christians) and I stand by that not in spite of it leading to odd conclusions, but because it demonstrates that a state must necessarily complicate philosophy so as to make contradictions frequent and inescapable. It is because of this, my belief that any tax-payer can simultaneously be the owner and not-the-owner of public property, that I would say that non-taxpayers who have never been citizens of the country in question are certainly not the owners and have no claim to public property whatsoever.

(The arguments made by my opponents are mostly consequentialist. I don’t deal in terms of utility maximisation but instead I seek justice. However, while I’m not at all an expert on socio-biology, I am told, that the more homogeneous a societal group is or the lower the amount of diversity in a group’s ethno-culture, the more stable and happy and wealthy it will be. It seems to me that history would back this statement up too. Though, please don’t make the mistake that I believe that these are arguments for restrictions on immigration; I still only take rights into consideration.)

[2] Secession, the State and the Immigration Problem. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

[3] In Defence of English Civilisation. Sean Gabb.

[4] Secession, the State and the Immigration Problem. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

[5] I owe all of the ideas in this paragraph to Sean Gabb, who happens to be on the right side of this debate – and many more.

[6]A Libertarian Theory of Free Immigration. Jesus Huerta de Soto

[7] On Free Immigration and Forced Integration. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

 [8] Curbs on Migration are Curbs on Our Freedom. Allrik Birch.

One thought on “Roads, Balkanisation and Regulation of Monopolies

  1. Pingback: Some libertarians aren’t very sensible when it comes to immigration | Simon Rigelsford

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