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Harry Binswanger has articulated a very clear position in favor of open immigration: "This is a defense of a policy of absolutely open immigration, without border patrols, border police, border checks, or passports." He makes several points, but I want to focus on one, which I think is fundamental. He writes: 

Quote

 

The implicit premise of barring foreigners is: "This is our country, we let in only those we want here." But who is this collective "we"? The government does not own the country. It has jurisdiction over the territory, but jurisdiction is not ownership. Nor does the majority own the country. America is a country of private property. Housing is private property. So is a job. Only the owner of land, or of a business employing people, may set the terms regarding the use or sale of his property.

There is no such thing as collective, social ownership of the land. The claim, "We have the right to decide who is allowed here" means that some individuals—those with the most votes—claim the right to prevent other citizens from exercising their rights over the land they own. But there can be no right to infringe upon the rights of others.

 

[End quote]

Quote

 

Binswanger has identified the main question whose answer separates his view from mine. Is there such a thing as social ownership of the land? If there is, then property rights allow the citizens of a country to control the border. If there isn't, then nobody has the right to stop foreigners from using public land to cross the border.

I aim to prove that Binswanger has come down on the wrong side of this question, and this error has logically led him and others to promote absurd immigration and border policies. Land indeed can be owned and controlled by a society, a group of people, and that society can grant managerial powers to its representatives in government.

Consider an empty piece of land. If a man puts work into that land and turns it into something else, a ranch, a farm, a residence, a business, etc., then it is his property. Now, what if ten men got together as a group, called the Ten Man Group, and they all worked equally hard to build a farm. Then that property is owned by the Ten Man Group. Here we have group ownership of land. Each member of the group has a 10% claim on the property.

Next, let's imagine a whole town of people getting together. They agree that public free ways must be built, so that citizens can move about more easily without having to pay road tolls to private owners and delaying travel time. In principle, this should violate nobody's rights, as long as eminent domain is not used. For simplicity, let's say everyone in town agreed with this idea, and nobody's land was stolen from them by the townspeople. So now we have a community owning the land on which the roads are built. Each member of the community has a percentage stake in the property, which is represented by the ability to vote in elections and petition the government.

If we apply this principle generally to the entire nation, we get a system of public lands that are owned by the citizens and tax-paying residents of that nation. Some mistakenly treat public lands like they are not owned, because they don't see how a society can own land. They don't make the connection with group ownership of property. Because the people of a nation invest in the public property and its maintenance, they own it jointly, and they therefore control its use.

Binswanger says, "The government does not own the country," and he's correct, in a sense. It's the people whom the government represents who own the country--meaning the public lands within that country. Obviously society in general has no claim on private lands.

Binswanger's answer to that fundamental question has led him to endorse a bad border policy. He actually wants no checkpoints, no control whatsoever. It doesn't take much imagination to consider the horrific consequences of this inaction. America's enemies could, for example, easily conduct border raids and sneak into the country undetected with myriad ill intents. Such an absolutely open border policy displays no regard whatsoever for the life and property of the nation's people. But at least Binswanger has remained logically consistent with his fundamental principle. If he can be persuaded that his principle is wrong, then he should come around to the side of those advocating some sort of border control based on property rights.   

Edited by MisterSwig

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Sure, some specific individuals existing at some time owning some stock of personal goods could come together and contractually form a voluntary corporate body, and thus decide together on some means for the discharge and use of these goods held corporately. But here's an alternative view: the US is not such a corporate entity and your argument has not (or even attempted) to show that it is such.

You only say "if we apply this principle to the entire nation we get..." Etc. Sure. If "we" apply all sorts of principles to the entire nation "we" can "get" whatever "we" want. But there is no "we" here and assuming there is begs the entire question.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

America's enemies could, for example, easily conduct border raids and sneak into the country undetected with myriad ill intents.

This sounds like a bad example. Would the FBI/CIA/DEA/etc. be so incompetent that they can't know about border raiders and marauders? I doubt that no particular border controls at all would mean that there is no law enforcement going on. To me, it makes much more sense to simply observe the border. It's not like there would be lawlessness. It sounds like there would still be policing on the border, but not border police per se.

But if he means not even that, that doesn't make sense. It would be like wishing for straight up Ancapistan with law enforcement as private also. He might be extra focused on private property. If you focus on only private property, your counterargument makes sense. But I think you're both wrong to focus on private property. This is a law enforcement issue: what does an organization like the DEA need in order to perform its function?

 

Edited by Eiuol

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

But here's an alternative view: the US is not such a corporate entity and your argument has not (or even attempted) to show that it is such.

Right, because I'm not talking about a corporate entity.

1 hour ago, 2046 said:

You only say "if we apply this principle to the entire nation we get..." Etc. Sure. If "we" apply all sorts of principles to the entire nation "we" can "get" whatever "we" want. But there is no "we" here and assuming there is begs the entire question.

Well, there's you and me and the rest of the people who read this. If you don't want to apply the principle, don't.

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59 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

This sounds like a bad example. Would the FBI/CIA/DEA/etc. be so incompetent that they can't know about border raiders and marauders? I doubt that no particular border controls at all would mean that there is no law enforcement going on.

Binswanger's position is: no border police, no patrols, no checkpoints. That's some of what I'm arguing against. So, yeah, there might be law enforcement after the fact, after someone reports a crime. But how would police identify even obvious, physical threats crossing the border, if they aren't allowed to patrol and control the border? Some dude could walk across with a bomb and no police would be there to see him. It's a free border, man!

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Compare the statements “There is no such thing as collective, social ownership of the land” and “There is no such thing as collective, social ownership of land”. The latter claim is clearly false, once you sweep away the verbal cruft of “social, collective”. A government can legitimately own stuff – chairs, cars, atom bombs, even land. It owns specific pieces of land. The government does not own “the land”, meaning all of the land in the US, and it does not even pretend that it does. The government does not even pretend that it owns the pieces of land that butt up against Mexico or Canada, except for a very small amount where there are border crossings. I accept the premise that land can be exclusively owned and controlled by a government, which has a definite nature (there’s no serious question what the Government of Tukwila is, as opposed to the Government of King County: they own different pieces of land).

You claim that in the case of the Ten Man Group, we have group ownership of land and each member has a 10% claim on the property. I don’t know what it means to have a 10% claim on the property. Instead, I maintain that each member has an equal and undivided interest in the property (I am trying to help you here). If you really want each person to own 10% of the land, it needs to be partitioned so that each party has a specific 10% – I have no problem with that. It simply means that now I can say where my 10% is. Presumably you see how this defeats your argument – I allow people to cross on my 10%.

In contrast, when land is owned corporately / collectively (so that each person have an undivided interest), the “rules of the corporation” say how the use of the land is controlled. Maybe the rules grant that control to a single person; or to a board of directors; or to a Facebook up-vote procedure. Because of that rule whatever it is, I don’t individually get to say how the land is disposed of. The current rule allows certain executive branch authorities to promulgate rules about the use of federal government land.

Binswanger is not just right in a sense that “The government does not own the country,” he is right in every sense. In order for the government to be able to effectively exercise its property-right to control entry, it must own all possible entry points, which is ever piece of land in the US: and it does not. That is, unless the government really does own all of the land in the US, and we’re just renting from the feds.

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But how would police identify even obvious, physical threats crossing the border, if they aren't allowed to patrol and control the border?

By whatever method those enforcement agencies use already.

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7 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But how would police identify even obvious, physical threats crossing the border, if they aren't allowed to patrol and control the border?

By whatever method those enforcement agencies use already.

Yes, by patrolling and controlling the border. What exactly is the disagreement here?

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But how would police identify even obvious, physical threats crossing the border, if they aren't allowed to patrol and control the border? Some dude could walk across with a bomb and no police would be there to see him. It's a free border, man!

So like, not only is this wrong, but wrong according to just about every moral theory I know of, except maybe Hobbesian absolutism (where the dictator or sovereign establishes right or wrong by its will.) Wrong according to utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, liberalism, Randianism, Marxism, nationalism, whatever. And that's because most theories require that you actually have to have done something wrong, or met some probable cause standard of doing something wrong before the police can accost you. Almost every moral theory thinks that pre-crime is wrong.

Moreover, if you can restrict someone for what "some dude might" do, it can't be denied that some babies being born might go on to commit crimes. All childbirthing must be restricted on those grounds. Or someone might be moving from the Bronx to Brooklyn, and this dude might have a bomb that no one can see. All movement from the Bronx to Brooklyn might be restricted on those grounds. Etc.

Why is it that these arguments are so bad? It seems like every time some argument is made, and shot down, another one pops up. First it was the old "clubhouse" argument, or the US as some collectively owned entity, then it's pre-crime, next it's going to be "because foreigners don't have the same rights," or something else. We've already seen the "culture argument," the "they're going to vote wrong" argument, the welfare argument. Why do the goalposts keep shifting? Once these arguments are shown to fail, if you keep believing in them, you're being dogmatic.

The Simpsons character Nelson punches Ralph. "Why are you hitting me?!" exclaims Ralph. "You're breathing my air!" answers Nelson. This "you're breathing my air" is really what the argument boils down to, and why the every shifting goalposts never seem to land on a coherent argument that doesn't beg the question. There is widespread anti-immigrant bias. Whether that bias is racism, xenophobia, or just dislike of different people, some people just have a priori decided they don't like immigrants, and they have bad arguments. 

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2 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

If you really want each person to own 10% of the land, it needs to be partitioned so that each party has a specific 10% – I have no problem with that. It simply means that now I can say where my 10% is. Presumably you see how this defeats your argument – I allow people to cross on my 10%.

There are nine other owners. If they outvote you, the land won't be divided. If you have a contract that says you're entitled to break off 10% of the land, that's different. But that's not what I'm talking about.

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2 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

In order for the government to be able to effectively exercise its property-right to control entry, it must own all possible entry points, which is ever piece of land in the US: and it does not.

A couple things. First, as I argued, the government doesn't own the land. It manages land for the people it represents. Second, all possible entry points do not need to be publicly owned for effective border control. We have fairly effective control now, and large stretches of the border are still privately owned.

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On 9/5/2019 at 3:46 PM, DavidOdden said:

Binswanger is not just right in a sense that “The government does not own the country,” he is right in every sense. In order for the government to be able to effectively exercise its property-right to control entry, it must own all possible entry points, which is ever piece of land in the US: and it does not. That is, unless the government really does own all of the land in the US, and we’re just renting from the feds.

Also, there are these things - "Airplanes"? They might put an extra little kink in the "ownership of the border" argument (on top of the preexisting ones).

 

On 9/5/2019 at 5:25 PM, 2046 said:

Moreover, if you can restrict someone for what "some dude might" do, it can't be denied that some babies being born might go on to commit crimes.

Be careful. Some Dude might get ideas from a comment like that.

On 9/5/2019 at 5:25 PM, 2046 said:

Why is it that these arguments are so bad? It seems like every time some argument is made, and shot down, another one pops up.

To be fair, there are a lot of legitimately scary people in the world (Iran and North Korea both come to mind). I don't believe it's just a dislike of "different people" that drives most of today's xenophobia (and particularly not the elements of it that're cropping up on this forum); I think it's a dislike of those specific savages that none of us should really be defending.

Admitting that does not save any of the arguments you mentioned. They all still suck. But it does give us a clearer picture of what we're dealing with and a more direct discussion of what's really going on.

 

PostScript:

 

Although I am finding that the longer this drags on, the less I care about the particular reasons for it.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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On 9/5/2019 at 3:25 PM, 2046 said:

Why do the goalposts keep shifting?

Because open borders is patently absurd, and people have struggled to figure out the proper position. Most closed or controlled border advocates are not Objectivist. They have poor arguments against open borders and for their own view. And those who are Objectivists have not solved the problem of public property, so they too struggle with the question, make mistakes, and have to start again from scratch. 

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Because open borders is patently absurd, and people have struggled to figure out the proper position.

"Open" borders is very undefined, each person who says it means something different. It could range from anarchy at the border (literally no law enforcement of any kind), to simple patrolling as occurs anywhere else in the country, or many other ideas. All you can do is argue against specific conceptions of it. Binswanger, for instance, doesn't seem to have a sensible position, even if he is correct to say that the was government doesn't own the country's land (as Odden was saying). 

Your justifications for your beliefs seem to shift all the time. Are you trying to argue against people as if anyone who is against your position is therefore for "open" borders, so you are trying to generalize their positions? If you do that, of course it will seem like your goalposts are always shifting, since many of your objections could apply to one person, but not another, even if they are both extremely liberal about border control. So we end up with strange objections like "since group ownership is possible, the public owns the land at the border". 

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

public property,

Why solve an illegitimate problem?

Edited by Eiuol

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On 9/5/2019 at 1:46 PM, DavidOdden said:

Binswanger is not just right in a sense that “The government does not own the country,” he is right in every sense.

If you're suggesting that Binswanger agrees with your position that government can own and control land, then you're mistaken. He doesn't believe public property is owned by anyone. This is from his HBL post "It Should Be Voluntary" a few months ago:

Quote

Suppose I stand at the border (on someone else's property or "public property"), and I point a gun at people the property owner has invited onto his land or that is "public property" (i.e., land owned by no one), and I demand that every entrant prove to me that he or she deserves to enter "my" country. That's the initiation of physical force. And it remains so when "the majority" empowers "the government" to do it for me.

To him "public property" means "land owned by no one." So, not actually property at all. Just unworked land, I suppose. Yet this is obviously not true. Much of the border area contains human development, such as public roads, public fences, and public ports of entry, etc. Who built all that stuff? And who are the people working at these sites? Who authorizes them to be there and pays their salaries?

Binswanger's position depends on dropping this context. He needs to believe that public  property is not actually property in any way, shape, or form--in order to maintain his open borders position. If he admits that public property is owned, then he must figure out who owns it--and that will ultimately take him to my position.

Edited by MisterSwig

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Just now, MisterSwig said:

He doesn't believe public property is owned by anyone.

Neither do I, because there is no such thing as public property, so public property can't be owned by anyone. You can't own what isn't real (we can pretend it's real). Doesn't mean the land is not necessarily property. Group ownership is not equivalent to public property. Doesn't really matter, because the government doesn't own the land even as a group of individuals. 

3 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Who built all that stuff?

Individuals or groups of individuals. Not "the public". 

 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Are you trying to argue against people as if anyone who is against your position is therefore for "open" borders, so you are trying to generalize their positions?

No. I'm specifically arguing against Binswanger's position here.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Why solve an illegitimate problem [public property]?

What makes it illegitimate? It's the basic disagreement here.

Edited by MisterSwig

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46 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Group ownership is not equivalent to public property.

Public property is a species of group ownership of property, as I indicated in the OP. A private group (family, partners, corporation) hires a manager for their private land. And a public group (a city, a state, a nation) elects a government to manage the public land.

46 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
56 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Who built all that stuff?

Individuals or groups of individuals. Not "the public". 

Who paid those individuals and groups? Who authorized them to work on the land?

Edited by MisterSwig

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When government manages property or something like property, then regardless of the rights and wrongs of that underlying situation, it should do so in a way that respects rights as much as possible,  including the right to freedom of movement. 

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4 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

And a public group (a city, a state, a nation) elects a government to manage the public land.

I'm not going to rehash what Odden wrote. Your position is clearly that public ownership is a real thing. I'm not sure how you're going from "groups can own property" to "the public owns property". That's an argument by analogy, basically argument by assertion, since there isn't any kind of demonstration. You didn't improve your argument by saying "public property is a species of group ownership", because I said it doesn't exist. If unicorns existed, they would be a species of horse. But they don't exist in the same way public property doesn't, so I don't care how you would categorize them.

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

It's the basic disagreement here.

It sure is, and so basic that I don't even want to discuss it. If you want to argue for public property on an Oist forum, it's an uphill battle. Rand calls public property a collectivist fiction. I'm sure you know the reasons well enough, so argue against those.

"Since “public property” is a collectivist fiction, since the public as a whole can neither use nor dispose of its “property,” that “property” will always be taken over by some political “elite,” by a small clique which will then rule the public—a public of literal, dispossessed proletarians."

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Who authorized them to work on the land?

I misread your statement before. Anyway, that's what I meant by pretending public property is a real thing, and you said the government owns it. But forget that, it looks like you changed your argument again - the public owns the border, but then they ask the government to look over or manage it. So to answer your question, the government authorized them. By your premise though, the public authorized the government. 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm not sure how you're going from "groups can own property" to "the public owns property". That's an argument by analogy, basically argument by assertion, since there isn't any kind of demonstration.

I'm not talking about the public in general. I mean specific groups of individuals based on residential identity. This might be the residents of a city, state or nation. The residents of Los Angeles own their public city roads. The residents of California own their public state roads. And the residents of America own their public national roads.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You didn't improve your argument by saying "public property is a species of group ownership", because I said it doesn't exist. If unicorns existed, they would be a species of horse. But they don't exist in the same way public property doesn't, so I don't care how you would categorize them.

How would you classify Interstate 40? What kind of property is that freeway?

Public property names actual things in reality. You might not like the name. But you still need to deal with the thing in reality and tell me what it is. Is Interstate 40 a kind of property? If so, what kind is it?

Unicorns are make-believe. (Besides, they aren't a species of horse, but of rhinoceros. See how easy it is when there's nothing real to contradict me?) The freeway, however, is real. The people who pay for it, use it, and manage it are real. So we need to properly classify this thing. It's not enough to shut our eyes and say public property is a "collectivist fiction." Okay, then, what is that freeway? Is it the elites' property? Aren't these "elites" basically our elected representatives?

Edited by MisterSwig

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32 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

If so, what kind is it?

No one owns it given how things are. It is dressed up in a legal fiction. The idea is collectivistic fiction. The US government might attempt to manage public use, and might declare how you may or may not use it based on the "will of the people" but this would be illegitimate because "the people" have no legitimate claim, and "the people" aren't assembled in the same way as groups that do own property. The only such groups that exist are political elites, that is, politicians deciding how to use public property act as the owner. Individuals and groups of individuals would be unable to decide how to use it, except by running it past the government (after all, the people includes everyone in the country, or the local government if we mean local roads). 

Where did the public derive ownership such that they could pass it onto the government for management? And why should the government own land if it doesn't further improve individual rights? Anyway, if you want to object to me, I suggest objecting to Odden's post directly as well. I want to know what you think about it.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Where did the public derive ownership such that they could pass it onto the government for management?

They bought it, worked it, lived on it, used it, etc. Have you heard of private landowners donating or selling property to cities and states for public use?

34 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

And why should the government own land if it doesn't further improve individual rights? 

If it violates rights, like taking property through eminent domain, then that would be an abuse of power, and the public should replace their representatives with better ones. Hopefully the victim will also sue and be awarded damages. If the people and laws are good that won't happen. If society is evil, then you should get out of there if you can--or fight to change it.

Edited by MisterSwig

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30 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Anyway, if you want to object to me, I suggest objecting to Odden's post directly as well. I want to know what you think about it.

Which part? I've already addressed what I found relevant. 

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