Borders and Property

I thank Jacob Hornberger for making my case regarding borders and property – and, therefore, immigration.

Wedding Cakes Have Nothing to Do With Free Speech.  In this piece, Hornberger makes an exemplary argument – perfectly libertarian – on this issue of baking wedding cakes for gay couples, etc.  It isn’t a free speech issue – which is how most people argue it; it is a private property issue.

The fact is that the wedding cake controversy has nothing to do with free speech. Instead, the issue is all about private property and the right to discriminate.

Exactly.  Now, some background…

My Case Regarding Borders

I am 100% certain that the issue of borders and immigration in a world of state borders cannot be answered solely via the non-aggression principle.

One has a right to exit; one does not have a right to enter.  This is consistent with a private property order.  In a pure private property order, every border would be closed – or, more precisely, managed.  It would be managed by the property owner.

Time to buy old US gold coins

I am not saying yes or no; I am not agreeing or disagreeing with one side or the other; I certainly do not agree with many of the methods deployed by the state.  I only state that there is no answer to be derived solely from the NAP in a world of state borders.

I will explain…again.  For the anarchists out there: from the non-aggression principle completely applied, one cannot derive a state.  Therefore, what can the non-aggression principle suggest about state borders?  I suggest…nothing.

Walter Block (who favors open borders) says as much.  While he states, rightly, that on topics such as drug use, slavery, etc., the state need only do one thing – that is, eliminate the law that makes illegal such activities that by themselves are not violations of the NAP – regarding borders, the state must do two things.  From Walter:

What I’m trying to do is to apply the libertarian theory I learned at Murray’s knee to immigration, and my conclusion is that the proper answer is full private property rights and open immigration. Both.

To which I replied:

…to achieve a libertarian condition regarding borders and immigration requires two actions – according to your own construct: removing the NAP-violating law AND privatizing all property.  One action without the other does not achieve a libertarian condition – as you say.

Walter concludes:

I think your point about me needing two things, while in legalizing drugs, ending slavery, we only need one thing, is very important. You are a very formidable debating partner.

And there you have it.  The non-aggression principle, fully applied and on its own, cannot answer the question in a world of state borders – a world in which private property is not fully recognized.  (I await a further reply from him that deals directly on this point.)

Now, to the minarchists: minarchism allows for the government to provide proper defense from invasion.  How on earth can this be done properly without having some idea of who is passing through the border and for what purpose?  Any consistent minarchist theory (I know; an oxymoron) cannot be extended to the idea of open borders.

Again, I am not saying right or wrong; I am just saying that the theory cannot answer the question.

So, Back to Hornberger

Let’s start with a simple example: the owner of a home. I think everyone would agree that he has the right to decide who comes into his home. He’s the owner, after all. That’s part of what private ownership is all about — the right to exclude others from coming onto his property.

So far, at least, the government has not trampled down this right (well, other than government agents having virtually free access).  But, from a libertarian standpoint, Hornberger is 100% correct.  This is the non-aggression principle, perfectly applied.

Suppose the homeowner throws a party in which he excludes blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people. All of his 100 invited guests are rich white Americans.

And this is the extension of the principle.

Under principles of private property and liberty, the homeowner has the right to discriminate. If the state were to force him to invite blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people to his party, there is no way that he could be considered to be a free person. Freedom necessarily entails the right of the homeowner to discriminate on any grounds he wants when it comes to who enters onto his property.

So…let’s take the next step: what if my neighbor and I throw a party, and we agree to exclude “blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people”?  Have we violated the NAP, or are we completely consistent with the NAP?

What if we get together and throw a block party – 100 homes in the neighborhood – and we decide to exclude “blacks, Jews, immigrants, and poor people”?  NAP violation: yes or no?  A thousand homes?  Is it possible that there is no violation if I take this action individually, with my home, but there is now a violation if my neighbors and I agree to similar conditions?

The answer should be obvious, but I will make this one easy: no violation of the NAP; perfectly consistent with the NAP; derived directly from the NAP.  It is illogical to suggest that what one individual has a right to do under the NAP becomes a violation if he and his neighbors jointly agree to do the same.


The non-aggression principle, fully extended, allows for managed borders of property.  Property implies discrimination by the property owner; in the case of his property borders, this means the visitor has a right to exit, but not a right to enter.  The property owner may exclude anyone from his property for any reason.

When it comes to “borders,” the state has made the private property owner impotent in terms of gathering with his neighbors and agreeing to this completely libertarian principle.  The state removes from me my property rights.  The only means I have by which to exercise these rights is via the state – and this is the single argument against state-managed borders, that it is the state acting as the agent.

Is the property owner’s impotence on this topic where the non-aggression principle leads?  Is the property owner’s impotence on this topic the non-aggression principle fully applied?  I hope not – impotence when it comes to property rights would kind of be the death of the non-aggression principle as a meaningful principle.  But then I don’t look for the NAP to answer all questions on all topics; so I am not burdened by such questions.

The entire weight of libertarian principle comes down on the side of managed borders; this butts up against the state doing the managing (as if there is a different reality possible in a world of state borders).

I conclude: one cannot derive the answer of borders and immigration from the non-aggression principle in a world of state borders.  Full private property rights come up against the state as the only lawful manager – how is the NAP supposed to square that circle?

Thanks, Jacob!

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.