Caplan on immigration

Bryan Caplan, taking his usual absolutist position on immigration, writes, "Third World exile is not a morally permissible response."

Let us set aside the fact that referring to someone who is simply staying put where they are as being "exiled" is rather bizarre. Besides that, what Caplan has done, in common with all ideologues, is to take a one-sided and partial truth, and treat it as if it is an absolute and unconditional truth. Of course it is a good thing to help people out of Third World poverty.

Here is the crucial question: does Caplan think the United States can absorb the entire population of the world tomorrow, with no severe harm done to US political, economic or environmental conditions? If he does, he is mad, and there is no sense further conversing with him.

But if he does not, and will not acquiesce in the destruction of American culture and the American economy, then he is in favor of some restriction on immigration. He just believes the limit is far above the present limit.

34 comments:

  1. I always find it funny (and somewhat hypocritical) that ancaps are against immigration laws with countries, but would tolerate the smaller communities they envision having draconian laws and much tighter immigration restrictions. Reminds me of the states' rights positions that I despise so much.

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    1. I can understand why you find that funny, but there is certainly nothing hypocritical about it. Ancaps are not against authority, they are against what they contend to be illegitimate authority. Since the principle that legitimate authority (in their opinion) stems from is private property rights, then it is only consistent to accept the possibility of smaller communities with many rules, tighter immigration, and so forth.

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    2. Ancaps are not against authority, they are against what they contend to be illegitimate authority.

      Then you guys aren't anarchists. All you're advocating is a different form of government. Any political scientist/theorist worth his or her salt would be able to see that anarcho-capitalist communities would make for another kind of state. After all, France used to be property of the king. There's something strange about a political philosophy that makes property its central concept.

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    3. Yes, Samson, good point: the network of anarcho-capitalist defense agencies IS a state.

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    4. Yes, Samson, good point: the network of anarcho-capitalist defense agencies IS a state.

      That's why I always had trouble with the anarcho-capitalist usage of Max Weber's definition of a state: One just has to look at the theocracies and kingships that existed prior to the rise of the Westphalian nation-state (which is only one type of state) to know that it's complete BS. Government's not a "monopoly", it's rule. That's why definitions of forms of government usually begin with "rule of" or "rule by". The Rothbardian hyperfocus on property blinds them to this, as if politics reduced to property instead of the other way around with it being only one matter out of many others.

      I can recall a good portion of how my thinking has evolved on these matters, but it would take me a while. To put it simply, I've been a political junkie for a while and the wide range of topics I'm familiar with kept me from falling for Rothbard's property reductionism. (Though I've never actually read him. Just bits and pieces from websites, forums, and the LvMI on occassion.)

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    5. "Since the principle that legitimate authority (in their opinion) stems from is private property rights..."

      Which is funny, because private property pre-supposes authority.

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    6. Some political theorists like Immanuel Kant hold that property isn't property without a social contract, too.

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    7. Yes, Samson, good point: the network of anarcho-capitalist defense agencies IS a state.

      To add, when it an objection is raised to communities having extremely authoritarian laws, the ancap response, much like a Tenther's response, is that one should move since its the community's choice to have those laws. Of course, they entirely miss the point which is that those shouldn't even be laws to begin with.

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    8. Which is funny, because private property pre-supposes authority.

      I've been trying to figure out what this means, but it's a little more troublesome than I thought. Is it that the "securing" of a piece of property is done by a political institution? That the declaration "X is the property of Y" is done by some authority, whether that authority is Y or someone/something else?

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    9. Should've begun that question with "Do you mean".

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    10. "Which is funny, because private property pre-supposes authority."

      As does the state

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    11. Well, that is just factually wrong, LLJ: who would have had the authority to have authorized creating a state?

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    12. "…who would have had the authority to have authorized creating a state?"

      Perhaps I'm interpreting this incorrectly, but I'm not entirely sure what you mean. Do you mean that "the state" is an authority and as such does not presuppose authority?

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    13. Yes, the creation of a state was the creation of authority. See Hobbes.

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    14. Territorial jurisdiction and property can't be said to be equivalent, correct? It appears that some libertarians have blurred the line between the two concepts. If they're not equivalent Rothbardian homesteading would appear to be countrysteading instead. Now, would the feudal dominions that existed in the Middle Ages be a type of state?

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  2. How is membership of a national political community not a club good?

    And how can increasing transaction costs through immigration not be a cost worth considering?

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    1. Definitely not a club good: the scarcity is natural, not artificial. (It takes time to assimilate people!)

      The second sentence, I don't know what you mean?

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    2. A state can't exclude people? Set citizenship rules? Etc. And since when is a state natural? Surely the non-rivalrous excludability is enough to make it a club good.

      Ethnic diversity raises transaction costs. Its one reason why, the more deeply the European state reached into a society, the greater the costs in ethnic diversity, encouraging the tendency to form into national lumps.

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    3. But maybe I am misunderstanding this, Lorenzo: the theory of club goods is not something I have devoted much time to.

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    4. Dont club goods have optimal sizes and suffer congestion? So even if it's a club good that's no counter to what Gene is saying.

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  3. You win Non Sequitur of the Week with this one, Gene.

    It does not follow from not believing that the US can absorb the entire population of the world tomorrow that one must favor "some restriction on immigration."

    In fact, it's more likely that someone who does not believe the US could absorb the entire population of the world tomorrow also does not believe that there are any plausible circumstances under which it would ever have to try.

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    1. Tom you apparently unfamiliar with the use of thought experiments in moral theory.

      There is no plausible scenario in which you would have to choose whether to lie or choose to reveal to Nazis the location of hidden Jews. Nevertheless, it might be useful to test someone who says no one ever must lie by seeing what he would do in this situation.

      And note I did not say Caplan must believe in restrictions. I said either he must admit that some level of immigration is too high, or he is a madman.

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  4. Gene,

    And you are apparently unfamiliar with the meaning of "non sequitur."

    Your conclusion does not follow from the premise of your thought experiment. Or at least it doesn't NECESSARILY follow from said premise.

    Caplan can easily admit that there is such a thing as "too much immigration" without for a moment believing that immigration restrictions are necessary. All that is necessary for him to hold those two beliefs simultaneously, without contradiction, is for him to also hold a third belief -- the belief that there are no plausible circumstances under which the "too much" immigration would take place.

    The problem with your "thought experiment" is that you're not "testing" Caplan with it. You're just putting the conclusion you wish he would have to reach in his mouth, when it doesn't belong there.

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    1. No Tom: Caplan doesn't argue (primarily) that such restrictions are not necessary. He argues that they are never permissible. My argument goes through against that case just fine, thank you.

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    2. Tom if you can ever find an instance of Caplan saying "of course, under certain far-fetched conditions immigration restrictions might be necessary," I will be in your debt.

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    3. Gene,

      But that brings us to a different impasse.

      The first and last excuse of those who want to do something morally impermissible is that it's "necessary."

      If Caplan holds that immigration restrictions are morally impermissible, then why the hell would he feel obligated to do his immoral opponent's work of proving "necessity?" When I'm fighting someone, I don't haul their ammo to the field for them. They have to do that for themselves.

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    4. OK, Tom, you seem to have conceded all of my earlier points: no non sequitur, etc. but rather than saying "I see your point," you just changed the subject.

      'If Caplan holds that immigration restrictions are morally impermissible, then why the hell would he feel obligated to do his immoral opponent's work of proving "necessity?"'

      Ok, now I completely have no idea WTF you are talking about. I said somewhere that *Caplan* had to prove immigration restrictions are necessary?! Huh?

      I think *I* tried to demonstrate that at some point they would be necessary.

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    5. Every time I defeat one of your arguments, Tom, your response is to shift topics. That is troll behavior. Adios for now, compadre.

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  5. Gene, does your book Oakeshott on Rome and America have an abstract to it?

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    1. Here are some reviews:

      http://voegelinview.com/oakeshott-on-rome-and-america-review/

      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/oakeshott-vs-america-112/

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  6. Isn't there a third choice? Caplan knows it would destroy the culture and the political system, and that is fine by him. I think this is the most likely actually. Ideologues like him only care about staying true to their simple minded premise. Premise: state bad.

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    1. You are correct. I am writing this up for a longer project, and I am inserting that point.

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    2. Ideologues like him only care about staying true to their simple minded premise. Premise: state bad.

      I think that's the problem. Anarcho-libertarians' mode of thought seems to be limited to a specific context, so they end up seeing non-nation-state modes of human organization as not having government when they in fact do.

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  7. Gene, this is my point! This is the point I make to all "open borders" advocates.

    I ask "what is YOUR limiting principle on immigration?". They are usually quite stumped

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