Posts tagged Stephan Kinsella

Re: ParALLax View

Kinsella: The original left-right spectrum is confused and anti-libertarian.

Well, if you’re going to get all originalist on us, Stephan, the original left-right spectrum ran from ultra-royalist mercantilists who believed that the State was the instrument of God on Earth, to radical free marketeers who favored the abolition of State control in the name of the Rights of Man [sic]. (Bastiat sat on the Left; so did Proudhon.) Doesn’t seem especially confused to me; seems like a pretty straightforward spectrum from statists to anti-statists, with a laissez-faire economist and an avowed anarchist holding down the leftward end.

Re: Reply to Neverfox on immigration: “Whatever Mileage We Put On, We’ll Take Off”


Technically, “owners” refers to those who have a claim on state assets (mostly US taxpayers, but others too, I suppose), and “outsiders” to those who don’t.

Well, right, which I think is my point — that the classes of “owners” and “outsiders” here don’t actually line up very well at all with either citizenship or immigration status. Which I would think tends to undermine the extent to which discrimination in favor of use by owners would result in anything looking like an even minimally restrictive immigration policy.

true… but one could argue that IF the basic argument here is correct, then the road-owners can, via their agent (the state), condition the use of public property by outsiders on an agreement to pay taxes–so that the taxes paid by undocumented or even documented “outsiders” don’t count to give them an ownership claim.

  1. I don’t think that the state is acting as the agent of taxpayers.

  2. I agree that this sort of thing is a possible arrangement in a case of property that is either owned jointly by an association of private individuals, or owned in common by the unorganized public, if you already have a tolerably good idea of who constitutes the association or the public, prior to and independently of the arrangement. In fact, I imagine it’d be pretty common on thoroughfares where they might be able to get some tolls from it.

But as a way of sorting out and settling the rightful ownership claims for a road currently occupied by a criminal enterprise like government, when we don’t yet have an account of who has the rightful ownership claim and who doesn’t, this seems pretty ad hoc. If natural-born citizen Roderick, naturalized citizen Arnold, documented immigrant Hans-Hermann, and undocumented immigrant Juan Maria all start using government roads at about the same time, and all start being forced to pay in taxes at about the same time, what’s the basis for categorizing (say) the taxes paid in by Roderick and Arnold as payments toward a share of ownership, but no the payments put in by Hans-Hermann or Juan Maria, such that Roderick or Arnold’s preferences for the property count towards setting requirements for admission, but Hans-Hermann’s or Manolo’s don’t? Of course, you can’t just cite Roderick and Arnold’s preferences about who should or should not be allowed to buy in, while ignoring Hans-Hermann’s and Juan Maria’s, when the question at hand is precisely who among the possible candidates are going to have their preferences counted and whose are going to be ignored; that would pretty directly beg the question.

(My own view on the matter, for what it’s worth, is that payment just radically underdetermines the question of who has the best claim here, since it’s so universal and run through so many anonymizing centralized slush funds; so what you’ll have to look at is, first, trying to reverse eminent domain seizures to the extent possible, and, after that, looking to something more like payment plus Rothbardian homesteading, which would be determined by who lives on, works on, or otherwise habitually uses the road. But if that’s the standard, then there are lots of communities where lots of undocumented immigrants live on, work on, or otherwise habitually use, U.S. roads.)

I’m not sure there is any armchair libertarian way to figure this out. It’s messy (which is one problem with crime in the first place). …. I tend to think it would be decentralized and ad hoc and catch as catch can ….

Sure, I agree. And doesn’t that make it extremely unlikely that any one-size-fits-all national border restrictions could even remotely approximate what the rightful owners would do with their property in roads, parks, etc. if free to set their own terms? If it actually reflects a decentralized, ad hoc, messy sort of approach, shouldn’t the expected result be decentralized, ad hoc, and messy, rather than a single policy for everyone all across the continental expanse of the U.S. — producing a border sieve rather than a closed border wall?

Re: Reply to Neverfox on immigration: “Whatever Mileage We Put On, We’ll Take Off”


I understand that you don’t necessarily mean to endorse the argument you are presenting. But, just to get clear on the details of the setup:

  1. In the argument, as presented, the people who you claim to be the rightful owners of the road system are “U.S. taxpayers” (since it was their money that was stolen to build and maintain the roads). You then suggest that this is a reason why rules of the road could legitimately be adopted which exclude or condition access for “outsiders,” which apparently you read as people who are not U.S. citizens.

But “taxpayer” and “citizen” are not the same category. Not all citizens are taxpayers and lots of taxpayers aren’t citizens. Many citizens are net tax recipients; all immigrants, both government-approved and undocumented, pay at least some taxes to the local, state, and U.S. governments (gas tax, sin tax, sales tax, property tax through markups on rent, often income tax, etc.) and many, probably most, are in fact net taxpayers (since immigrants are ineligible for most welfare benefits that citizens are eligible for). So if you’re considering “taxpayers” to be the class of people who rightfully should have joint ownership of the roads, wouldn’t that suggest that your average undocumented worker has a substantially better claim on having a say in forming rules about who can use of government roads than upstanding citizens like Fritz Henderson, military-welfare recipients like Jim Gilchrist, or milfare administrators like Marvin Stewart?

  1. Presuming, arguendo, that U.S. taxpayers (not necessarily citizens) are the rightful owners of government-funded roads (certainly the government is not, so…), do you think it likely that the shares and distribution of rightful ownership would be uniform across all taxpayers and across all roads? So, for example, have I, living on Rochelle Ave. in Las Vegas, earned a vote over what people living and working on Cass in Detroit can or cannot do with their road? Have the folks on Cass earned an equal say to me over who can or cannot use Rochelle here? When we’re trying to figure out what a private property owner would do, do we have to conceive of, say, the policies of a single private proprietor or a single private entity who owned all 2,500 miles of I-10? Or might the patterns of rightful ownership — hence the distribution of use policies — be somewhat more decentralized than that?

Here’s how Kinsella answers…

Here’s how Kinsella answers my question about immigration onto private property and the use of helicopter shuttle services:

I would not oppose immigration only onto private property, but as soon as he is caught on public [property] he would be jailed for trespass. Which is basically the same thing as today’s immigration polices.

No, it’s not. If you were arrested for criminal trespass you would be charged with either a misdemeanor or a low-grade felony (depending on the state and the nature of the offense). The likely punishment would be a fine. It would not be sustained imprisonment and it sure as hell would not be the solution currently favored by La Migra—deportation, i.e., exile and confiscation of property. If you’re seriously proposing that we treat undocumented immigrants like trespassers then simple considerations of proportionality would mean that federal immigration policy as it currently stands would have to be completely dismantled and reconfigured to look more like the issuing of traffic tickets.

That’s not to say, though, that the trespass-on-public-property argument works in the first place. It doesn’t. Quite frankly, it’s crap. Here’s what Kinsella used to back it up earlier:

Well. In my view the American people as taxpayers—or some of them—are true “owners” of public land.

Of course, the “or some of them” is necessary to do your mischief. Because, as you know, or ought to by now, immigrants pay taxes too. Among other taxes, they pay gasoline taxes more or less in proportion to their use of roads.

Ergo, it seems that as soon as an immigrant has filled ‘er up, he has (thereby) become an American taxpayer, and (thereby) gained as good a claim to access to the roads as anyone else.

You might claim:

  1. That a driving (i.e., taxpaying) immigrant does own a share of the roads like everyone else, but the decision of the majority of the joint owners overrules the individual’s decision to allow herself to access the road. But it’s an awfully strange kind of joint ownership in which the majority of the owners can simply categorically exclude another owner from accessing the commonly-held property no matter what.

  2. That once immigrants have paid taxes they have access to the roads, but all you propose is a policy that would close government-controlled property to people who haven’t paid taxes yet, and so do not yet have any ownership claim. But there are lots of ways that an immigrant who has never set foot on a government road could go about acquiring shares of ownership if that’s how it really is—for example, by paying an agent to purchase some taxed gasoline on her behalf, and then using her newly-bought shares in the government roads to drive out and get it. Or by buying it from someone else who’s willing to sell their shares. (I, for one, have no particular interest in owning or investing in highways, and would be glad to sell.)

That said, note that all of this is predicated on a particular theory about what the “ownership” of the roads amounts to in the first place. Even though I don’t think that theory proves what you want it to, I think it’s frankly ridiculous on its face, and ridiculous in ways that undermine the possibility of alternatives giving you the results you think you can get from this theory. In particular, to get the policy outcome that it’s licit for majority opinion to close down the entire road system (and all other government-controlled land) to immigrants, you have to hold:

  1. That everyone in the shareholding class owns a share in the entire network of roads

  2. That they own all the parts of the network of roads equally (so, for example, you have as much of a say as I do about how to dispose of the roads between my apartment and some place that an immigrant guest of mine might work)

  3. That the terms of this joint ownership are such that a sufficiently large number of shareholders can overrule the decisions made by one of the shareholders for non-interfering use of any part of the network. (Such as, for example, driving an immigrant guest from my apartment to her place of work.)

If you don’t have all of (1)-(3), then the trespassing-on-the-roads argument never gets off the ground—since to get the conclusion that approximating the enforcement of private property rights on roads, you first need to show that the entire network of roads—not just this or that byway—can be closed to immigrants. But (1), (2), and (3) are all obviously false; insofar as there are any legitimate property claims that can be disentangled here, you’ll have a decentralized patchwork of claims over different parts of the road system, not a giant joint stock corporation in the road network as a whole. There are good reasons to think that I have some legitimate property claim to the street outside my house; some mootable reasons to think that I have some rightful claim in the major thoroughfares in my city; very little reason to think I have any claim on the interstates; and no reason whatsoever to think I have any claim to the roads in front of your house.

This is connected with your sympathy for monarchist immigration policy:

Almost every American would want SOME restrictions on immigration, and it seems clear that a private monarch-owner would also do this.

But why should anyone care what One Big Cartel on the whole goddamn continent-spanning network of roads and government-controlled property would do? That’s not at all interesting for the property rights that would arise in a free society (in which the OBC would collapse due to calculational chaos); it’s not at all interesting for the issue of property rights in this vale of tears (in which neither I nor the collective of American taxpayers nor any monarch has any just claim on the road in front of your house); and it’s not even interesting for the sorting out of utilitarian considerations (since the decisions of OBCs are not reliably efficient).

So why bring it up?

Regarding Switzerland:

I think this is just ridiculous. It is quite clear if Switzerland had open borders then it would radically change.

Of course it would radically change. Everything changes. So what? The question isn’t whether it would change or not but whether the change would be damaging. And why in the world would it be? Because the Swiss would have to figure out how to cope with enclaves of people who have a different religion or speak another language? Well, gee, the whole bloody country is nothing but a loose confederation of unassimilated ethno-linguistic enclaves. Of all the countries in the world to pick for your example of how large-scale immigration and “multiculturalism” would inevitably lead to catastrophe and civil war, Switzerland is so unhelpful to Hoppe that the choice seems downright perverse.

Are you saying that if you did believe this, you might agree with his conclusions? Is your difference only an empirical one?

No. Utilitarian considerations about the plausible effects of large-scale immigration don’t have anything to say to the permissibility of using violence against peaceful immigrants.

However, Hoppe is making a sociological claim in the passages that you quoted above, in addition to his claim about justice. Although I don’t think he would have made the case for immigration restrictions if he were right about the plausible consequences of large-scale immigration in a statist world, it’s also worth pointing out that he’s also wrong on what the plausible consequences actually are.