If I Had a Third-String, I'd Send It In!

Do you remember that point in the recent NBA finals where you knew the Miami Heat had lost? Suddenly their shoulders were a little slumped, there eyes went a little dead, the charge for a loose ball just was not as energetic. It was a little sad.

But at least they did not reach the point of despair where they were simply lobbing the ball up in front of the San Antonio basket for the Spurs to slam home. Unfortunately, a good friend of ours apparently has fallen into such a lamentable state; in response to this post, Bob Murphy commented (quoting me first):

Gene: a nation-state, just like any other human group, has the right and the need to control who may become a member of the group.

Bob: But I don't think you believe the "just like any other human group" part. If I want to add someone to my company to show up with the group and work at the office every day, but the Nation-State says, "Nope he was born in the wrong country no can do," then you side with the Nation-State's decision, not mine.

But I don't have Corey Joseph available to send in, so I will have to handle this myself. So...

Consider the Spurs: they, to be a coherent team, must have the ability to decide who is and isn't a part of their team. But that discretion does have its limits. In particular, as the Spurs themselves are members of a larger group, the NBA, the Spurs do not have the discretion to add a player who is ineligible to play in the NBA, because, perhaps, he is only 17, or he has been banned for betting on games.

A professor at a university may be running a seminar where he is told that he has discretion as to which students may enroll. But one thing he may not do: enroll a student who has been banned from the university, perhaps for a violent crime while on campus.

Or think about a household living in a private community. They are free to decide who may and may not join their household, but with a restriction: they may not allow anyone to move in who is forbidden to live in the larger community. (Perhaps, say, no one on a sex offender list may move there.)

Note that not a single one of these cases has anything to do with some special rule that applies to the state: no, the rule is simple and simple common sense: group A may choose its members, but with the proviso that if it is contained within group B, its chosen members must be eligible to be members of B as well. So given that we can suppose Bob's company is an American company...

Does anyone know if Aron Baynes is interested in guest blogging?


  1. Just because you make frequent sports analogies doesn't make you cool...

    OK let's try it like this, Gene. What would the world look like, if a particular group of people did *not* "have the right to control who became a member of the group"?

    As with almost all of our arguments, the dispute boils down to legitimacy. What looks like "unwarranted interference with a group's ability to pick its own members" is equivalent to "perfectly fine establishment of the boundaries within which a subsidiary group may act" once you agree with the legitimacy of the larger group.

    But you can't establish that the Nation-State has such legitimacy, by merely asserting that it has this right "just like any other group."

    1. 'But you can't establish that the Nation-State has such legitimacy, by merely asserting that it has this right "just like any other group."'

      Of course not: I have readily admitted, in print, several times, that of course if one thinks the nation-state is illegitimate, then it has no legitimate right to do anything!

      This argument is simply noting that immigration is not, as libertarians sometimes contend, some SPECIAL problem in terms of the state. Of course, if it is illegitimate, it can't legitimately control immigration! But if it is legitimate, then immigration control is no more problematic than is the Spurs controlling their roster.