Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mises on Immigration and Nation

Joe Salerno has written an excellent essay, describing the perspective of Ludwig von Mises on the inter-related subjects of political borders, immigration, and nation.  Further, Salerno offers clarity on Mises’s view of liberalism – and it isn’t classical liberalism as generally described.  The entire piece is worth at least two reads; I will here offer only an overview.

Salerno offers:

My purpose in this short essay is to set forth Mises’s views on immigration as he developed them as an integral part of the classical liberal program he elaborated. I shall not attempt to criticize or evaluate his views.

Salerno is the consummate professional; courteous, scholarly, respectful. As I am, on the other hand, a mosquito…I will handle this topic a little differently; not regarding Mises’s views but the views of some in the audience.

Beginning his piece, Salerno offers that many advocates of free immigration point to Mises as a fellow traveler.  But…not so fast:

However, Mises’s views on the free migration of labor across existing political borders were carefully nuanced and informed by political considerations based on his first-hand knowledge of the deep and abiding conflicts between nationalities in the polyglot states of Central and Eastern Europe leading up to World War One and during the subsequent interwar period.

Conflicts between nationalities within the same political boundaries; Mises certainly would know, having lived it.  This leads directly to Mises’s view of “liberalism”:

[Liberalism’s] two fundamental principles were freedom or, more concretely, “the right of self-determination of peoples” and national unity or the “nationality principle.” The two principles were indissolubly linked.

For Mises, self-determination was an individual right; for Mises, the freedom offered by liberalism could not be separated from (or perhaps could not survive without) “national unity.”  There is no “liberalism” without “national unity” (as Salerno describes it: “national unity based on a common language, culture, and modes of thinking and acting”).  If you can remain patient for about 160 words, this seeming contradiction will be explained. 

I know some in the audience choke whenever they see me (and now Mises) using the word “nation,” conflating this idea with “state.”  Mises is not confused (but it would be silly to think he was):

…the nation has a fundamental and relatively permanent being independent of the transient state (or states) which may govern it at any given time.

Read again what Salerno offers for clarification of “national unity” and how this differs from the concept of “state.”  Consider that national unity offers the possibility of a significantly less coercive state.  For Mises, political borders that do not evolve with the nation offered a certainty of internal conflict; political borders that do not respect the nation within it offer conflict as well.

Consider also that this came about naturally – inherent in man’s nature.  Citing Mises:

The formation of [liberal democratic] states comprising all the members of a national group was the result of the exercise of the right of self determination, not its purpose.

Human beings are not atomistic beings; human beings hold emotional and spiritual bonds with other select human beings.  Call these select human beings family, kin, and nation.  In other words, humans are…human.  Salerno offers Rothbard on this point as well:

Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture.

Salerno goes on to describe Mises view of similarities of colonialism and minorities within a political boundary.  In many ways, the treatment by the overlords / majorities of these two groups is similar.

Mises maintains that two or more “nations” cannot peacefully coexist under a unitary democratic government.

And with this, a clue is offered as to why national movements sprung forth at the same time that the state moved toward liberalism and democracy.  Mises, I think, would have expected nothing else.


Thus, concludes Mises, even if the member of the minority nation, “according to the letter of the law, be a citizen with full rights . . . in truth he is politically without rights, a second class citizen, a pariah.”

It is easy to be for open borders, unchecked immigration, and the dismissal of culture when one is a part of the political majority.  Try being the minority for a while; see how that feels. 

Don’t yell at me, take it up with Mises.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why They Hate Rothbard

Given the foundational work Rothbard has done in developing and furthering libertarian theory, it is interesting to note how he is at best ignored and at worst despised by the broader libertarian movement.

What is more interesting is that Rothbard takes bullets from all sides – in many ways, the one thing many mainstream libertarians and libertine libertarians have in common is this disdain for Rothbard.

Why is that?

Rothbard first points to the mainstream libertarians.  He labels them, the “oxymoronic…Big Government Libertarians.”  In this group, he identifies, in addition to the Libertarian Party…

…a loose network of libertarian and free-market think-tanks, national ones that include lobbying groups, who gravitate inside the Beltway, and state or regional think-tanks, who necessarily remain in the heartland in body if not alas in spirit…

He additionally mentions legal groups, magazines, hard-money newsletters, and so on.  What do all of these Big Government Libertarian institutions have in common?  They have…

…in the last few years, moved at remarkable speed to abandon any shred of their original principles: devotion to minimizing government or defending the rights of private property.

Instead, these groups want to make government more efficient – as if efficiency in the production of “bads” is a good thing.  These Big Government Libertarians crave respectability in and the social acceptance of official Washington.

But there is a lot more at work here.  At bottom is the point which many of us had to learn painfully over the years: there can be no genuine separation between formal political ideology and cultural views and attitudes.

The libertarian political must equal libertine advocacy and acceptance.  Rothbard identifies a strong hatred of the right wing, coming from “a broader and even more intense hatred of Christianity….” 

And in these few short statements, Rothbard himself quickly explains why both the mainstream (Big Government) libertarians hate him and why the libertine libertarians hate him.

He identifies a deep-seated “egalitarianism” in this movement: “Scratch an egalitarian and you will inevitably find a statist.”  Instead of property rights, each individual “has ‘rights’ that must not be subject to curtailment by any form of ‘discrimination.’”

This despite the fact that “discrimination” is inherent in any meaningful definition of property rights.

And so, flying in the face of their former supposed devotion to the absolute rights of private property, the libertarian movement has embraced every phony and left-wing “right” that has been manufactured in recent decades.

The alphabet soup of all-invented-gender rights comes to mind.

…“civil rights” has been embraced without question, completely overriding the genuine rights of private property.

As an example of one who embraces this libertine, civil rights philosophy, Rothbard writes of a “favored” presidential candidate in 1996: Massachusetts Republican Governor William Weld, driven by his devotion to “gay rights.”

Yes, that William Weld.  Support gay rights and Hillary Clinton for president and you qualify to run on the LP ticket in 2016.

Instead of defending property rights, libertarians have become “fiscally conservative, but socially tolerant.”  Make government efficient, advocate and demand support for all lifestyle choices.  Mainstream and libertine libertarians fit the bill perfectly.

An important plank in this social tolerance is an insistence that “open borders” is a human right and a position that must be held by every proper libertarian.  Anyone who dares deviate from the position of “open borders” is “automatically and hysterically denounced as racist, fascist, sexist, heterosexist, xenophobic, and the rest of the panoply of smear terms that lie close at hand.”

And this has apparently become the unpardonable sin, blaspheming against the holy spirit of mainstream, libertine libertarianism.


The elite have as an objective the destruction of western civilization; a culture of classical liberalism grounded in Christian morality is a challenge to the growth of state power.  The elite have as an objective the maintaining of “government” as that term is understood today. 

The elite have found fellow-travelers in the libertine and Big Government Libertarians, respectively.

And this is why they hate Rothbard.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Immigration: A Human Right?

Talk about confused…Is Immigration a Basic Human Right? My Opening Statement, by Bryan Caplan.

Before I get to the confused part, who is Bryan Caplan?

I'm Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger for EconLog…. I am currently working on All Roads Lead to Open Borders, a non-fiction graphic novel on the philosophy and social science of immigration…

Now, what are “human rights”?

The United Nations has a “Universal” declaration; you can imagine the long list of positive rights in this document…which is pretty much assumed whenever one speaks of “human rights.”  I will say, even the United Nations is not so bold as to declare immigration a “human right.”  The clause on point, as follows:

Article 13. 

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Freedom of movement within the borders; freedom to emigrate.  There is no freedom to immigrate.  The only “open border” is to the resident, to return freely to his country.

Wikipedia offers a page on human rights, and from there a link to another page, Freedom of Movement:

Freedom of movement, mobility rights, or the right to travel is a human rights concept encompassing the right of individuals to travel from place to place within the territory of a country, and to leave the country and return to it.

Again, nothing about immigration.  But there is more….

Some people and organizations advocate an extension of the freedom of movement to include a freedom of movement – or migration – between the countries as well as within the countries. This include Libertarian Party of the United States, the International Society for Individual Liberty, and … [wait for it…this is a doozy…]…

…economist Bryan Caplan.

Now, on to the confused part of Mr. Caplan’s piece:

If someone is peacefully living his life, he's innocent - whatever the government says.  What does this have to do with immigration?  Lots. 

That is the “human rights” part.  Now, how does he defend this human right?  Using the example of illegal immigrants in San Diego, he offers:

What are the vast majority of them doing?  Working for willing employers.  Renting apartments from willing landlords.  Buying stuff from willing merchants.

Every action involves a property right.  So…why defend it as a property right, yet place it under the lefter-than-left term…human rights?

To justify an action based on human rights is a road paved to hell.  The United Nations – an far-left entity that does not have the audacity to claim immigration as a human right – offers a long list of positive rights under the umbrella of human rights.

Would it surprise you to learn that I found Caplan’s piece at Jacob Hornberger’s blog?

Hornberger and Caplan: more “left” than the United Nations?  Hornberger and Caplan: willing to rely on the road paved to hell that is “human rights”?  Hornberger and Caplan: arguing “human rights” when property rights is the only appropriate argument for a libertarian?



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trump and the Republicans, Business as Usual

So far, Trump and the republicans are following perfect form:

House Republicans abandoned their efforts to repeal and partially replace Obamacare after President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan couldn’t wrangle enough votes….

It strikes me that Obama is more capable than Trump and Pelosi is more capable than Ryan; at least when Obama and Pelosi had a majority in both houses of congress, they could ramrod an unpopular bill through.

Why did it fail?  I will answer the question with a question: who in the electorate voted for “replace”?  The voters for Trump wanted “repeal.”  Republicans, when not in power, proposed a repeal bill at least half-a-dozen times.  Why not now?

Many republicans in congress wanted either repeal or a different version of replace.

If Trump and Ryan truly wanted a win, they should have called for a straight-up “repeal” vote.  The base would have been thrilled; republicans who voted against this would have been kicked out of office in two years; Trump would have delivered what his voters expected.

Instead we get one of the only two allowable outcomes in US politics: business as usual or business worse than usual.

“We’ll end up with a truly great health-care bill after the Obamacare mess explodes,” [Trump] said.

It will implode, but you won’t get “a truly great health-care bill” out of it.

Why do you think you will be in office when it implodes?  Why do you think republicans will hold a majority in congress when it implodes?  Why do you think republicans in congress will allow it to implode?  Why do you think other republicans in congress will want to replace it?

Why do you think those who voted for you want “a truly great health-care bill” at all?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Uncomfortable Questions

An interesting dialogue.  One that raises uncomfortable questions.  The dialogue has been ongoing at this blog for quite some time; in many ways, the dialogue can be summarized here, beginning with the comment by Nick Badalamenti March 22, 2017 at 6:38 AM.

For close to two years I have been examining the relationship of the non-aggression principle and culture.  The dialogue has been ongoing at this site throughout this time.  This journey began with an examination of left-libertarianism; such an examination inevitably moved into culture.  With culture comes the topic of immigration.

The Questions

·        What if the NAP requires a certain cultural soil on which to thrive?
·        What if that cultural soil is to be found in what is traditionally understood as European and Anglo?
·        Do all invasions require armed, uniformed battalions – supported by airpower?
·        What if elites are purposely taking action to destroy that cultural soil, specifically for the purpose to destroy the one philosophical threat to their worldly power and control?
·        Do parents have an obligation to protect this cultural soil for their children?
·        What if that obligation requires methods that cannot be considered consistent with the NAP?
·        It is acceptable for a voluntary community to set standards for new members to meet before they are allowed admittance?
·        Is it acceptable for a voluntary community to set standards that members are required to meet, else they face expulsion?

The Non-Aggression Principle Applied

Libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice.  Being human, we will never achieve the NAP utopia – there will never be a heaven on earth.  Consider how much those libertarians who believe this sound like believers in communism; in both cases, they require humans to be something other than human.  The chance of achieving perfection in applying either system is zero. 

The best we can hope for is continued decentralization.  This implies increasing choice in increasing aspects of our lives.

The increased choice can be found in both market and government realms.  As libertarians, we tend to focus only on the “government” aspect, but it is incorrect to ignore the freedom that has been offered by the market – cars, iPhones, the internet. 

This is not to minimize the “government” aspect.  For this reason, it is consistent with the NAP to root for every opportunity of political decentralization: the break-up of the Soviet Union, Brexit, Scottish Independence, Catalonia.  Political decentralization brings increased political choice for individuals.

Find something that comes closest to what you want; you will never find exactly what you want.  It will always be true in the market; it will always be true in the political.

A Historical Framework

The closest and longest lasting example in history that I find that is consistent with the non-aggression principle is that period understood as the Germanic Middle Ages.  Political decentralization defines this period.

Was it pure libertarianism?  Hardly.  But there is no chance of heaven on earth.

What characterized this period?  Local governance; law based on the old and good, not legislation; all men truly under the law; the law binding by individual oath; the oath a three-party oath – two human parties and God; the king can only enforce the law, not legislate; every noble with the ability to veto the king’s decision; serfs protected by the same system of oaths; wars were between the nobles and kings, the serfs were not obligated.

What else characterized this period?  Lots of wars.  What didn’t characterize these wars?  All serfs conscripted at the wish of the noble; involvement of the entire continent, let alone world; the ability to sustain the war for an unlimited period.  The wars were limited in both size and duration.  Call them family feuds, because that about describes it.

What else characterized this period?  The Christians of the Germanic Middle Ages fought desperately to protect their culture.  They felt that without this culture, they would have no future for their children; without this culture, they would leave no legacy worth celebrating.  By losing this culture, they would be remembered as pariahs.

I believe it is fair to suggest that the obligation most felt by the nobles of this time was the obligation they felt to both their ancestors and descendants – to preserve the culture under which they enjoyed the greatest decentralization.  Their view?  Any society that failed to preserve its culture didn’t deserve to survive.


Face the questions.  Think through your answers.  The context is this world, not in theoretical utopia.