Community? What Community?


Community? What Community?
By Neil Lock

In recent months, borders and migration have been much in the news. This is a subject, on which I find myself disagreeing with traditionalists, conservatives and even many libertarians. For, as I wrote in an essay on the Libertarian Alliance (LA) forum back in 2013 [1]: “I favour not so much open borders, as no borders – at least, no political borders, and so no barriers to migration.”

So, a few months ago I set myself to try to understand more fully the ideas of those on the other side of this issue. I owe thanks, first, to Keir Martland for his part in a most illuminating discussion in a comment thread on the LA website in late July. And second, to John Kersey for his clear enunciation of a traditionalist position in his speech to the Traditional Britain Group on 12th September 2015 [2]. This essay is, in part, a reply to John’s views as there expressed.

Why bother?

Let me begin by asking: Why should I, an avowed radical, bother what conservatives think? The answer is simple; I share many values with them. For the part of me, which looks to the past for inspiration, sees great worth in the ideas of the 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment. Some of these values are: Reason and the pursuit of science. Toleration of difference, most of all in religion. The idea that society exists for the individual, not the individual for society. The idea that human beings are naturally good. Freedom of thought and action. Natural rights and human dignity. Government for the benefit of the governed. Formal equality and the rule of law. A desire for human progress, and a rational optimism for the future.

I would hope that most conservatives today, even those on the further right, would agree with many if not all of these values. And, indeed, with many of my views on what constitutes civil or virtuous conduct. Such as: independence and self-reliance; seeking and telling truth; peacefulness and non-aggression; taking responsibility for one’s actions; respect for property, privacy and other human rights; economic productivity and trade; honesty and integrity.

Moreover, conservatives and I share many enemies; socialists and greens the most obvious among them. So, it’s important to me to try to understand why, on the subject of borders and migration, my view is so far away from people with whom I can agree in so many other ways.

Community

I think that one root of the issue, at least, may lie in a difference in our understanding of what community is. One message I took home from my discussion with Keir is that English conservatives feel a strong attachment to something they call the community, or sometimes “the people.” This seems to be, specifically, a political community; and it’s coterminous with, if not exactly the same as, the state commonly called “Britain” or “the UK.”

In contrast, for me, there’s no such thing as the community. I see each human being as a member of many different communities. (For example, the brass band I play in is one. The LA blogosphere is another). No single one among these communities can be dignified with the definite article the.

Here’s my conception of community. I see the word as having two derivations. First, as a group of people who have things in common. And second, from com- and the Latin munire, to fortify, so meaning sharing walls. Thus, I think of a community as being defined by two aspects: binding forces, which hold the people of the community together; and walls, which separate them from those outside.

I recognize communities at several levels. First, the community of one, the individual; bound together by personality, and walled by human rights. Next, partnerships and marriages, bound together by voluntary contract. Then families, bound together by kinship. The marketplace, bound together by mutual trade. And societies, bound together by shared purpose and sense of belonging. (These include communes, the word I use for societies walled in by geographical boundaries as well as by membership. Monasteries and university colleges are examples of communes).

At the highest level comes what I call Civilization. Civilization is bound together by shared values of, and a shared commitment to, civil behaviour. And it’s walled, not by any geographical boundary, but by a strong distaste for uncivility and for those that practise it. If there was anything I could call the community, it would be this – as yet, unrealized – Civilization.

In my scheme, there’s no place for a political community. Indeed, as I put it back in 2007 [3]: “Any community, of which I could feel a part, would blackball most, if not all, of today’s politicians, and many of their toadies.” I feel no sense of community or shared culture with Blair, Brown or Cameron, or with any of their cronies or hangers-on. Far from sharing my values like truth, honesty, non-aggression and respect for individual rights, they actively flout them. Blair, Brown, Cameron and their kind are no more my fellows than Hitler or Stalin would have been.

As to the state, I see its claim of sovereignty, and the moral privileges it arrogates to itself, as incompatible with moral equality, and so with the rule of law and justice. Thus, I reject the state as [4]: “a hangover from a way of thinking that pre-dates John Locke by 100+ years.” And that’s why I say, of the UK state: bugger bloody Britain.

Property and land

Now I’ll backtrack a little way, and talk about property; specifically, land. Early in his talk, John Kersey says that freedom and civilization are based on the premise that land should be privately owned. I heartily agree; indeed, I go further. For me, all containable resources both can and should be privately owned; that is, by individuals or by voluntary societies. This includes areas of land and water, goods and chattels, and even some animals. (But it doesn’t include human beings. This is because humans, being moral agents, can’t be legitimately owned by anyone).

Items of real property, including land and buildings, confer on their owners certain rights. The most important of these, for the purpose of this discussion, is the right to set boundaries around and, at need, within the property. That is, to make and to enforce rules on access to the property, including which parts of it may be accessed by whom, when and for what purposes. Where the property is individually owned, these rules are up to the owner. Where the owner is a group of people, the rules will be agreed in some way among the group.

However, property can also place responsibilities on its owners, as well as giving them rights. For example, someone who buys a gun acquires a responsibility not to use it to shoot innocent people! Succinctly put, property must be used with propriety.

This is also important in the case of land. I see an ethical obligation of all landowners, which I call “non-encirclement.” This means that you must not use your property (either alone or with others) to surround someone else’s, and so to imprison them or to prevent them receiving visitors. And more generally, your right in your land is not so absolute that you can forbid others entirely to pass, peacefully and quietly, across your land if they have no other reasonable way to where they want to go. After all, if you stop them crossing your land, there’s nothing to prevent them doing the same thing, tit-for-tat, to you.

Private and public space

In the 2013 essay I referred to earlier, I built a picture of how borders might exist in a world based on libertarian principles. This included a general presumption of freedom of movement along defined routes (easements), even across property owned by others. In fact, this is not far away from how rights of way in the UK evolved in the first place. Bruce Benson has written a most interesting monograph [5] detailing, among much else, how the UK road system came about, and the shambles which on several occasions resulted from political interference by kings and others.

So, as I wrote back in 2013: “In a libertarian world, land (and water, too) would, I think, become divided into two types of space. There would be private (owned) space, with borders and designated easements. And there would be public (open to all) space, made up of those easements. Furthermore, I expect there would be, ultimately, only one public space, which would be connected. That is, any point of it would be accessible from any other without leaving the public space.”

There’s no place, in this picture, for any borders inside the public space. The only valid boundaries are those which arise from the property rights of individuals, groups, societies or communes. And these boundaries are all either at the edges of, or within, private spaces.

Moreover, these boundaries can only restrict movement from the public space (or from others’ private spaces) into private space, not in the opposite direction. Thus, absent good reasons to deny access to it to specific individuals (for example, to those convicted of serious crimes and thereby sentenced to incarceration), the public space must be open to all, without exception. And once an individual is legitimately in the public space, he has the right to go anywhere in the public space.

The city

Next, I’ll give an example of a society which has a border, and controls who may cross it, but in a way which doesn’t contradict libertarian principles.

Consider a group of people living in an area subject to incursions by warlike, marauding tribes. Growing tired of predations, they decide to work together to erect defences. They form a City Wall Society. The purpose of this society is to build, and to maintain, walls for the defence of the people inside, and gates for passage. All those living inside must be members of the CWS, and pay their share for its upkeep. There will be associate members, too. For example, farmers whose lands are outside the gates, but who have the right to take shelter in the city at need.

Here, we have an embryonic city state. The City Wall Society owns the walls and the gates, and sets rules as to who may be allowed to pass into the city, when and for what purposes. These rules would, for example, secure permanent residence for all full members of the CWS and their dependants. They would allow temporary entry to those specifically invited in by inhabitants of the city. And they would allow for visits, regular or one-off, by tradesmen from outside. Moreover, due to the principle of non-encirclement, no-one would ever be denied exit from the city without very good reason, such as a substantiated accusation of a real crime.

This is a political society, in the strict meaning of the word; it’s a society of the city. And such a community, if its walls and its people are sufficiently strong, could last for a long time. For the city brings an important value, defence against external enemies, to each and every inhabitant and associate. And so, every person in the community has a strong incentive to continue as a member of it, and to do what he can for it.

Sovereignty

Now, let’s consider what happens after a most unfortunate occurrence overtakes our city. A besieging king has contrived, perhaps by stratagem, or perhaps by the sheer number and military strength of his warriors, to enter into the city and to take possession of it. He and his cronies have become a ruling class in the city and its environs.

From outside, the city looks little different. As before, some are allowed in, and others not. And the City Wall Society continues to maintain the walls and gates. But inside, there has been a huge change. No longer can individual inhabitants of the city invite in their friends from outside as they wish. The ruling class must approve all such invitations. And no longer is the work of the CWS paid for directly by its members. Instead, the king and his cronies tax the people; then, having taken their (substantial) cut, they pass on to the CWS what it needs to do its work.

Something fundamental and rather nasty has happened here. Property has been replaced by sovereignty.

Let me elucidate. The walls and gates are no longer the property of the City Wall Society. Instead, the king and his ruling class claim ownership of the entire city, including its borders. The property rights of individuals and societies no longer exist. Or, at best, they’re regarded as leases from the king’s “eminent domain.”

And not only have property rights been lost or severely damaged in the transition from a free people’s city to a royal state. But the principle of non-encirclement has been lost, too.

I’ve already written, in no uncertain terms, about what I think of sovereignty [6]. Here, I will add one thing. While boundaries of property are a one way filter, borders of sovereignty are two way. Not only can the king keep out of his city those he dislikes. But he can also forcibly keep in those he chooses to. For example, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has pointed out [7], prior to 1824 the emigration of skilled workers from England was illegal.

When a king and his ruling class take over a city, the fox is in the hen-house. More; the fox controls the hen-house. Now, it’s true that some of the foxes are a bit less evil than others. On rare occasions, the interests of the ruling class can coincide for a while with the interests of the ruled; the UK from around 1830 to 1901 is an example. To live in a state during an empire-building phase isn’t so bad. But for traditionalists to hark back to such a time, and to claim that going back there is the only way forward, is… the nicest word I can find is myopic.

Nationalism

Living under monarchy palls after a while. People start to ask, why should a king and a ruling class have a right to do to us exactly what they want? And why should we put up with it? So they form a society, with the purpose of overthrowing the rulers. They can readily find two binding forces for such a society. First, a shared culture. And second, to a greater or lesser degree, a common ancestry and shared racial characteristics. Thus, a nation is born. It’s at this point that the idea of “the community” comes into being.

Against a dynamic as strong as nationalism, few monarchies can stand. The king may be unseated entirely, or relegated to a ceremonial role. But, importantly, the power of the ruling class as a whole is not broken; nor is its sovereignty destroyed. Indeed, by exploiting for their own gain the new feeling of “we” among the people, the ruling class can actually increase its power. And as to borders, nationalism makes them more important, not less. The xenophobic nation state is up and running.

Many countries, particularly those in which democracy has not yet been tried or in which it has never been any more than a false front, are today still stuck in this nation state phase. Others, most of all those with a history of liberal values, proceed to the next stage of social disintegration; democracy.

Democracy

In the same spirit as Gary Chartier’s three kinds of capitalism [8], I’ll here offer you my four phases of democracy.

Democracy-1 is the honeymoon period. People are happy to have (at least apparently) a say in how their lives are governed. Everything seems fresh and new, and anything seems possible. I noticed, at a recent conference in Bali, that many Asian libertarians seem to be “in love” with democracy in this way. I’ve also noticed that this phase can often result in political frivolities, such as the Beer Lovers’ Party winning 16 parliamentary seats at the 1991 elections in Poland.

But honeymoons don’t last. It isn’t long before political factions emerge, looking to take advantage of the situation. The result is what I call democracy-2. In this phase, two factions each form a group of core supporters, and promote policies designed to favour their own supporters at the expense of everyone else. People who don’t feel a strong attachment to either of the factions will tend to support whichever side seems less evil at the time. And this, as often as not, is the faction currently out of power.

Minor parties can also attract such people; so, they can flourish for a time. But rarely do they get big enough to acquire any chance of real power. Thus, as long as democracy-2 lasts, power tends to swing from one side to the other and back again. The social fabric becomes more and more stretched, and the tone of politics becomes nastier and nastier.

In the UK, democracy-2 was the norm for a period stretching roughly from the 1920s to the 1980s. It was the norm for several decades in the USA, too. Many people, particularly conservatives, seem to think that we still live under that system. But the reality is otherwise. For in the 1980s – I think I can date it to a particular year, 1987, but that’s a long story and one for another day – in most if not all Western democracies, the transition began to democracy-3.

Under democracy-3, the differences between the political factions become greatly reduced. They may sometimes spout different rhetoric; and they may, perhaps, propose slightly different bad laws. But their ideologies are essentially the same. And their policies are directed, not to the benefit of the people, but for the personal benefit of the political class and their hangers-on, and to satisfy the agendas of special interest groups.

So, under democracy-3, society inevitably descends towards where we are today. Everything is politicized. Government has been hi-jacked by special interests, such as environmentalists, warmongers and the pro-EU lobby. And the interests of the political class and their cronies have become diametrically opposed to the interests of good people. The fox is back in control of the hen-house.

Indeed, the fox is sovereign in the hen-house. It’s this very sovereignty that allows the fox to make the bad laws, and the taxes, and the wars, that harm good people so much. I don’t blame the titular monarch, Lizzie Windsor, for this; my guess is that she’s as much a victim as we are.

Living under democracy-3 is even worse than living under monarchy. For under a monarchy – a hereditary one, at least – you might get a good egg like William IV, or a bad one like Mary. But under democracy-3, those that rise to the top are, almost without exception, the worst, the most dishonest and devious, the most politically hip. It’s a system perfectly made for the Blairs, the Browns, the Camerons and their ilk. Moreover, under democracy-3 the political class and their hangers-on are far more numerous than any king and his courtiers. And so, their interferences with, and predations on, the people will become far more stringent and far more pervasive than those of any monarchy.

There’s a fourth phase of democracy; and it’s a terminal social illness. Democracy-4 is the tyranny of a parasite majority. The Greeks suffer it already; for, as I learned recently [9], 67 per cent of Greeks depend on the state for their existence. It’s ironic that Greece, the so called “cradle of democracy,” is also the first exemplar of its destruction. For the productive 33 per cent of Greeks, there are only two options now: exit (while it’s still available), or revolution.

Multiculturalism and Islam

On to multiculturalism. I confess that, before my discussion with Keir, I didn’t grasp the problem of multiculturalism; or, indeed, why so many people think it’s such a big deal. But now, I think I understand that what they find to be a problem is the idea of having several cultures inside one of these things they call “the community.”

Even knowing this, I still don’t really grok the issue. I look, for example, at one of the most successful countries in the world, Switzerland. Switzerland is a multicultural society, and has been for centuries. Where’s the problem with multiculturalism? Or what about the UK itself? The UK was multicultural long before immigration ever became a talking point. I’ll never forget, on my first visit to North Wales, discovering that they spoke a language I couldn’t make head or tail of, and that the pubs were closed on Sundays!

So, I’m coming towards the view that “multiculturalism” is no more than a label, a convenient euphemism, for something else. Those that decry multiculturalism are really, deep down, saying that they hate immigrants. And often, it’s specifically Muslim immigrants that they hate.

Now, those who know me will be aware that I take a very liberal view towards different religions, and towards Muslims in particular. That doesn’t mean that I’m in any way an apologist for Islam. I find Islam even less attractive than Christianity, which I rejected at the age of 16. I’m not comfortable with its central theme, surrender to the will of a god. I abhor its attitude to alcohol. I’m not too convinced by its attitude to women either. (Though Western feminism, it must be said, has tipped that particular balance too far the other way). Nor do I like the fanaticism it can engender, or the suspicion it causes some Muslims to show for non-Muslims. Nor do I approve of the propensity of a minority of Muslims to seek to rip people off.

All that said, back in 1983 I spent two and a half months working in a moderate Muslim country, Indonesia. And it was one of the happiest times of my life. I found the people there, for the most part, to be friendly, helpful and tolerant of Westerners’ foibles. (The beer wasn’t so bad, either). And, in England, I have known several fine people, who also happened to be Muslims. So, as an upholder of the values of the Enlightenment, I will not condemn Muslims for being Muslims.

Indeed, I see Muslim immigration less as a problem than as an opportunity. Unlike Protestants, Catholics and Jews, Muslims as a whole haven’t yet been through the process of Enlightenment. Isn’t having so many of them among us a good chance to teach them our Enlightenment values?

In reply to John Kersey

At last, I’m ready to address some points John Kersey raises in his talk.

First, individualism. John says that individualism will cause society “to atomize into multiple and ever-changing identity groups.” I disagree. For individualism, simply put, is a way of thinking that focuses on the individual as opposed to the collective. It concentrates on the rights and responsibilities of individuals and their relations towards each other, rather than on nation states and politics, or on received cultures or religions. It’s a bottom up way of thinking, as opposed to a top down one. And in my view, individualism is a vital part of the way out of the bedlam that is democracy-3 and into a liveable future.

Further, I’d say that if you want to build a worthwhile society, if you want to create institutions to endure into the future, you need individualism at the core of your ideas. The best institutions are always built by people working freely and voluntarily with each other to solve the problems they face. I already mentioned the founding of cities, and the development of rights of way. And there are other traditions, that have grown outside the prevailing political order; the lex mercatoria is a prime example. In contrast, top down systems like nation states can’t build anything, except bureaucracies and war machines.

Second, the “Crown” and its role in setting borders. Now, either this “Crown” is a private landowner, or it is not. If it was something other than a private landowner, that would contradict the assumption with which we came in; namely, that land should be privately owned. But if it’s a private landowner, then it can have no rights over its land that other landowners do not. In particular, it should be expected to keep to the principle of non-encirclement. It should not have a right to prohibit people from crossing its land at, say, the Port of Dover or Heathrow Airport. Nor should it have any right to prevent someone from Slovakia (for example) visiting a friend who has invited him to his home in Kent. The conclusion of my argument is clear: if all land is privately owned, then there can be no national borders.

Third, legal versus illegal immigration. Now for me, what is legal conduct and what is illegal conduct must be the same for everyone. You cannot reasonably claim, of twin brothers Mo and Ahmed, neither of whom has ever committed a crime, that it’s legal for one to be in a particular place in the public space, and illegal for the other.

You can, of course, rightly say that Mo is legally on your property (because he’s a plumber, and you have invited him in to fix a leak), while Ahmed, if he was in the same place, would be trespassing. But to say that an immigrant is legal or illegal is to miss the vital difference between property and sovereignty. All valid claims to set boundaries, across which individuals may not pass, arise from property rights. But if you claim a right to stop individuals from crossing a line in some place you don’t own, like the Port of Dover or Heathrow Airport, you’re not basing your claim on property rights. Rather, you’re arrogating to yourself a sovereignty which neither you nor anyone else has any right to.

Fourth, banning the burqa. However much some of John’s audience might agree with this, I find the idea unlibertarian. In my view, it’s wrong to deny people free expression of their religion, as long as it isn’t intended to be provocative. And moreover, if you’re going to ban the burqa, why not also ban the Sikh turban? Jewish headgear? The papal zucchetto? Catholic nuns’ veils? Or crosses on British Airways uniforms?

Fifth and last, cultural dilution. Here, I’m much more sympathetic to John Kersey’s views. He is discomforted by individuals “whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own.” So am I; and I don’t want them around me any more than John does. But the fact is, that most of them aren’t immigrants. Most of them are British born and bred. Yet far from sharing my values, they commit themselves to socialism, environmentalism, welfare statism, political correctness, warmongering or other uncivil ideologies.

John gives an excellent example of what we’re up against, when he mentions Tony Blair and cronies. He describes their motivations as “short-term, materialistic, self-interested greed and tribalism.” My own view of them is far less kind; definitely not fit to be published on the website of an educational charity!

Let me offer a thought experiment here. Imagine that you have both the right and the power to set an exclusion zone of, say, 100 miles radius around your home. (You don’t, in reality, have either; but this is a thought experiment!) You can set a border around it, and so keep out of your exclusion zone anyone you choose to. Furthermore, you can boot out of your domain anyone you want to, and not let them in again. The question is: who would you exclude?

I know what my own answer would be. Blair, Brown and Cameron would, of course, be the first to go. They’d soon be followed by supporters of Agenda 21, the “humans are causing catastrophic global warming” fraud and other green lunacies. Anyone that supports draconian speed limits or other anti-car policies. Anyone that supports re-distribution of wealth from the productive to the lazy, dishonest and politicized. Anyone that supports any policy intended to tell me how to live, or to subject me to indignity, or to constrain my freedom. Any bureaucrat that ever violated my human rights, for example by stealing a penny of my earnings or intercepting one of my e-mails. Anyone that supports aggressive wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Anyone that tries to rip me off, or treats me uncivilly or dishonestly. Anyone that lies to me, or tries to mislead or to propagandize me, about any matter of importance.

But to economic migrants – wherever they’re from, be it Syria, or Poland, or Iraq, or Greece, or Libya, or even Scotland – what I would say would be along the following lines. “I know of no harm that you’ve done to me. Therefore, I don’t wish any harm to you. So as long as you are, and remain, peaceful, honest and respectful of others’ rights, I’m happy for you to live your lives in my domain.”

Questions for conservatives

Most conservatives and traditionalists are well meaning people. They like to cling to the old ways, because they believe they work. In normal times and places, there’s nothing wrong with this. But the situation today, in the UK, USA and other democracies, is exceptional. The political system, that everybody knows and some are still stupid enough to love, has failed. As it stands, it has only one way to go; down to democracy-4, the rule of the parasite majority. Therefore, radical change is necessary. And that must start with radical change in people’s thinking.

So, my conservative friends, I think you need to ask yourselves some questions. For example: Why do you venerate the state and its sovereignty? Why do you show any respect at all for politicians that make bad laws, taxes and wars? Why do you even pay lip service to a political system that enables your enemies – and mine – to oppress us all? And why do you not only allow, but encourage, the state to prevent people from crossing certain arbitrary lines?

My vision

My vision is of a world in which property rights are fully respected; but there is no sovereignty. In which there is the rule of law and justice; but there are no politicians to make wars, taxes or bad laws. In which there are boundaries, set by individuals or societies around and within their properties; but there are no national borders, or obstructions to movement within the public space. In which everyone can associate with others to form societies or communes – political, religious or of other kinds; but no-one is forced into the company of those he doesn’t like.

Within that vision, forsooth, there might be an English Traditions Society. They might club together to buy a stately home or several, and form their own communes there. So, they can enjoy long summer Sunday afternoons, watching cricket, eating bacon butties, and drinking warm beer from a bar that doesn’t open until 7pm. And they can deny entry to Muslims; though they may make an exception for members of visiting cricket teams. You never know, I might pop in there from time to time for a pint or two, and to hear how my traditionalist friends are doing.

The vision I’m describing is founded on two ideas. The first consists, broadly, of Enlightenment values, with the rule of law and justice at the centre. The second is the state of nature. That is the condition which John Locke describes as [10]: “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.”

Locke also says, of the individual under the law of Nature [11]: “He and all the rest of mankind are one community, make up one society distinct from all other creatures. And were it not for the corruption and viciousness of degenerate men, there would be no need of any other, no necessity that men should separate from this great and natural community, and associate into lesser combinations.” Corrupt, vicious, degenerate; these words could almost have been invented to describe the Blairs, Browns and Camerons of today.

There’s a world-wide Civilization to be built out there – a new “great and natural community” of civil people. Those like me, who are doing what we can to bring it about, need as much help as we can get. Do conservatives and traditionalists want to join in?


[1] http://thelibertarianalliance.com/2013/08/01/in-defence-of-open-borders/
[2] http://thelibertarianalliance.com/2015/09/13/a-propertarian-speaks-on-the-immigration-crisis/
[3] http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/tactn/tactn030.pdf
[4] http://thelibertarianalliance.com/2015/03/10/nation-state-and-culture-an-individual-view/
[5] http://coss.fsu.edu/d5/economics/sites/coss.fsu.edu.economics/files/users/bbenson/roads_public.pdf
[6] http://thelibertarianalliance.com/2015/06/20/the-unholy-trinity-collectivism-sovereignty-corruption/
[7] https://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/hans-hermann-hoppe/on-free-immigration-and-forced-integration/
[8] https://c4ss.org/content/1738
[9] https://mises.org/library/greece-reliance-public-funds-central-problem
[10] Second Treatise of Government, §4.
[11] Second Treatise of Government, §128.

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39 comments

  • A very good essay – courteous, challenging, a call to self-questioning. I accept Neil’s point about the rather low quality of many natives. Indeed, I believe there has been some process of degeneration at work for the last hundred years, and that the collapse of our historic institutions coincides with a tipping point in this process of degeneration. But I still don’t agree that completely open borders – at the moment – would be conducive to greater freedom, or even to civil peace.

    I see border controls is the same way as I do state welfare, something that must go in due course, but which may be needed now to correct for other state-introduced distortions.

  • “I see border controls is the same way as I do state welfare, something that must go in due course, but which may be needed now to correct for other state-introduced distortions.”

    “As a youth I prayed, ‘Give me chastity and continence, but not right now.'” — Augustine

    • Ok, so immediately removing all welfare from the old and infirm and other people totally dependent on the state would be libertarian, yes?

      • “Ok, so immediately removing all welfare from the old and infirm and other people totally dependent on the state would be libertarian, yes?”

        Yes.

        Whether or not it would be the only libertarian option, or the best libertarian option, are other questions though.

        • This is probably why libertarianism will remain irrelevant and you will remain a fedora.

        • Well, next time some major corporation gets a cushy tax break through lobbying and whatnot, you will celebrate it as libertarian. Oh wait, no, you won’t! You will damn it as corporatism. Sometimes libertarianism is one thing, sometimes it’s another. Whatever flatters your previous political conceits will be called libertarian.

          Oh, and don’t forget to denounce the racists and bigots while you’re at it. Nothing else gives you that moral thrill.

          • Do you have any point at all? I don’t mean to reject your claim that “people should be free to live any way they want, as long as it’s exactly the way I tell them to” out of hand, but it’s hard not to do so when you seem so disinclined to offer any real argument for it.

            • My list of logical fallacies say you are wrong, and a Nazi. Tips fedora

        • “Whether or not it would be the only libertarian option, or the best libertarian option, are other questions though.”

          Ha! Questions YOU are allowed to ponder, but not Sean: “but which may be needed now to correct for other state-introduced distortions.”

          • It’s not that Sean is “not allowed to ponder” such questions. It’s that if the answer he comes up with is “hey, let’s be more authoritarian,” I’m probably going to reject that answer as non-libertarian.

            • We have NO power over anything. You don’t see that you are a pawn in a gigantic biological experiment designed to abolish libertarianism, the cultural consciousness of Liberty, and anyone who believes their rights come not from politicians but from God, Nature or Reason. You assist that. You are disgusted by the fact that Denmark is full of Danes, aren’t you? It horrifies you. Everywhere in the world is supposed to look like an airport, or it’s fascist authoritarian nativist racism run amok. Go away. Stay in America and stop talking about Europe, you are A CLUELESS FEDORA.

              • 1) I eschew fedoras.

                2) You obviously have no idea what I think about anything. Half of it you willfully misinterpret and the other half you just make up and attribute to me.

                QED you are an idiot and a troll.

                • You know enough about everyone else’s opinions to know they are nativist racist scum. It’s not a fedora ACTUALLY, it’s a Stetson! Hahaha. Excuse me, a colleague just burst his tea from his mouth upon reading this line: “I eschew fedoras” Oh Christ, you are hysterical. QED, too! Priceless, keep it coming.

                  • See what I mean? I’ve called no one here a nativist. I’ve called no one here a racist. I’ve called no one here scum. That’s just stuff you made up because when your positions don’t stand up to rational scrutiny, making shit up is the time-tested favorite way to avoid acknowledging and correcting your errors.

                    The hat is a Dorfman Pacific Gambler.

  • “He is discomforted by individuals “whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own.” So am I; and I don’t want them around me any more than John does. But the fact is, that most of them aren’t immigrants. Most of them are British born and bred. Yet far from sharing my values, they commit themselves to socialism, environmentalism, welfare statism, political correctness, warmongering or other uncivil ideologies.”
    Bingo!
    Most people here seem to be living in the past, and the past is another country. Having been born in the 50s I’ve seen the tail end of C20th Britain and the “western civilization” they idolize wasn’t evident to me as being extant during that period… it’s a figment of the collective imagination.

    • Oh good, another Americanized libertarian on auto-destruct. British people aren’t libertarian enough for you, so the trick is to import political clients who do not give a fig about liberty whatsoever. The end of libertarianism, sure – but Open Borders (meaningless phrase) adds to the GDP. Whose GDP?

      Libertarians like to distinguish between society and the state. Yet when you present them with actual, historical societies they are disgusted. They actually prefer state managed tax reservations under the banner of “Open Borders”.

      Libertarians bang on about property rights. OK, who owns the country? Not the state, heaven forbid! Who, then? Well, individual property owners, surely. And the public land, who owns that? The taxpayers. Why is millions of people trespassing on taxpayers property “libertarian”?

      What is the point of abolishing tiny European countries? I can’t quite understand. Who benefits? The state, first and foremost.

      • “British people aren’t libertarian enough for you, so the trick is to import political clients who do not give a fig about liberty whatsoever.”

        Funny how immigration authoritarians always resort to the falsity of the term “import.” Not infringing on the freedom to travel is not “importing” or “exporting” anything.

        “Libertarians bang on about property rights. OK, who owns the country?”

        Nobody owns “the country” because “country” is an anti-concept used by authoritarians to define communities their way rather than allowing communities to define themselves.

        “Not the state, heaven forbid! Who, then? Well, individual property owners, surely. And the public land, who owns that? The taxpayers. Why is millions of people trespassing on taxpayers property ‘libertarian?'”

        Ah, another attempt to re-define a term.

        If “the public” owns “the country,” then it follows that “the public” gets to decide who gets to walk on it. And as a member of “the public,” if I wish to invite someone to cross a piece of property in which I own an undivided interest, how is that “trespassing?”

        Nice try, no cigar. No matter how hard you try to magically transmute authoritarianism into libertarianism, it will remain authoritarianism rather than libertarianism. You don’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether you like it or not.

        • You are so American, it hurts. You honestly can’t understand anything outside the ideological nightmare of your own tax farm. It just does not compute, you fizzle and sputter like a clapped out A.I in some cheesy sci-fi. Sure, invite anyone you like to your property – go ahead. They will land in a helicopter in your front garden, presumably. Otherwise, you endorse trespassing. Oops!

          Let’s just leave little signatures at the end of our posts. No, YOU’RE a big meanie! No, YOU’RE an authoritarian racistfascistbigotnazi! It will save time, because every day you must get exhausted denouncing the bigotfascsitnaziracists you see all around you. Nativist scum!

  • Dear Neil,
    Isn’t the problem that the kind of utopia you call for, apart from being, very regrettably, unlikely to develop, would always be a hypocrisy as long as there was liberty in mating and reproduction? Being “civilised” must extend to continence and fairness in sexual matters or it will really be just another “hypocracy” in which (as Steve Moxon has put it) society remains a conspiracy between most women and fewer dominant men. Borders, to the extent that they create a “people” who voluntarily adhere to each other (for protection from other peoples – see Carl Schmitt), allow the possibility (and not always, indeed rarely) of the development of notions of fairness (i.e. justice) between “citizens” that do not require a Brave New World type apparatus to function (because all citizens are valued as allies). This has in the past extended even to mating (in England until 1963 according to Philip Larkin!).
    Of course one might take the view that the “degeneracy” of Western civilisation is partly due to these fluffy notions of fairness. That was certainly the view of an imam I met once: “Your big mistake,” he said, “was not allowing polygamy after WW2.”
    I too suspect some degenerate process in the UK: WW1 wiped out huge numbers of the best men and the diet has been full of dubious substances since WW2: margarine, chlorine, sugar; but it is human nature to be in awe of ancestors!

  • Pingback: RRND - 11/04/15 - Thomas L. Knapp - Liberty.me

  • Neil, You write: “So as long as you are, and remain, peaceful, honest and respectful of others’ rights, I’m happy for you to live your lives in my domain.”
    Well, that’s the $64,000 question! “Liberal individualism” does not describe reality because people have kinship ties, and with these ties usually go religious and ethnic bonds. This is because the ideal mate is not the least related nor the most culturally dissimilar. In nature, speciation (or, intermediately, “a mating barrier”) occurs because at some point distant relatives become too dissimilar for the offspring to have useful adaptation. When one adds to this biological rationale all of the “endgame” anticipating culture predicated on it, one can see that the road towards a liberal-individualist utopia is likely to be blocked by human nature.
    Borders are impossible to abolish. They spring up unwilled by any individual or government in the form of neighbourhoods and enclaves. These have a tendency to encroach upon each other and trouble results. Internally democracy becomes impossible because no matter how great a group’s numerical inferiority, it retains an intense desire to maintain its existence; thus at some point it demands secession. Externally these groups are susceptible to instrumentalisation by foreign powers: multiculturalism worked fine in Czechoslovakia for nearly 20 years, until Hitler decided to instrumentalise the Sudeten “Germans”. Mussolini did the same with “Italians” in Istria (“terra irredenta”), and there are countless other examples.
    Independence becomes vital because other groups have more to gain from one’s annihilation than from one’s continued existence: the men are merely competitors for women and resources and the women are inferior as mates compared to more related women, hence the sex-slave markets. This is reality, the one of which we can bear so little and that we have tried so assiduously to sublimate with “individualism” and “multiculturalism”.

    • Here’s where you go off the rails:

      “‘Liberal individualism’ does not describe reality because people have kinship ties, and with these ties usually go religious and ethnic bonds. This is because the ideal mate is not the least related nor the most culturally dissimilar. In nature, speciation …”

      Your two errors, in no particular order, are:

      1) You assume, without evidence, that your personal preferences for kinship ties and associated religious and ethnic bonds, are explained by evolution; and

      2) You forget that, at some point in the past, man developed a faculty of reason and that this gives him the ability to CHOOSE whether or not to go with the evolutionary flows you posit.

      This leaves you in the position of trying to defend the particular aspects you like of a complex post-evolutionary order, using the tools of that complex order, but claiming that that order is foundationally based in the “fact” that we’re all really still just grunting cave people.

      We are capable of rational intention. THAT is reality just as much so as any biologically ingrained preferences that may, in the distant pre-historic past, have reflected survival value.

    • “So as long as you are, and remain, peaceful, honest and respectful of others’ rights, I’m happy for you to live your lives in my domain.”
      Just to add, that, with the caveats of a willingness in principle to form kinship ties with others and a realistic rate of immigration, I can agree with this!

  • Dear Thomas,
    Thank you for this. With regard for your point 1.: I think it is uncontroversial to explain kinship bonds by instinct. There is a large amount of evidence for the phenomenon of “kinship selection” in nature. This is what Dawkins meant by “the Selfish Gene”: genes are selfish, but that allows the existence of altruism between related individuals as genes do not care “who” it is that reproduces them, only that they are reproduced. I think you cross Hume’s is/ought barrier when you assume that this is a personal preference of mine (as a generality): it is not. The consequences are awful, but problems are not solved by wishing the world is as it ought to be rather than as it is.
    This leads me to your second point: we are indeed endowed with reason, and we must face facts and reason from them rather than live in a fantasy, but it is questionable how much our reason influences our actions. After all we have appetites, and we mostly use our reason to fill our bellies, as it were. We are obliged to “cast our stone upon the waters”, unless we attempt to repress our appetites like Diogenes, and this has consequences, which we must use our reasons to face.

  • If one is a libertarian one must be interested in achievable circumstances that allow less government or greater individual liberty. The emphasis here is on “achievable”. One doesn’t want to be like the victors at Versailles, who righteously asked for the Earth and eventually got a very nasty and expensive mess (WW2) to deal with as a consequence. One sees this sort of attitudinising on the Left as well as on the Right: “I believe in ‘Social Europe'”, people say, “and in the meantime I shall vote for cheap labour policies because they are part of the European project.” Someone has coined the term “virtue signalling” for this kind of thing.
    If opening all the borders results in conflict or dictatorship, libertarians must be against it, for in neither of those circumstances will people be free. “Globalisation” is resulting in a lot of intrusive government: regulations due to trade agreements, surveillance and speech laws due to migration. Is it worth these sacrifices?
    Libertarians also need to order their liberty-preferences for the same reasons. Freedom of speech must trump freedom of religion, for instance, for the latter is really a liberty to enslave minds, collectively, and can easily end in the suffocation of all true liberty. I think Burke called for a “manly, well-regulated liberty,” and that sounds about right to me: we must be free to speak and to reason in order to arrive at laws that are just and minimal. These laws should be negative “Thou shalt not” laws. This is what is wrong with multiculturalism – it is a “Thou shalt” project in that it desires a certain, admittedly eclectic, end for society as a whole. Rather, people should be at liberty to do what is not proscribed, and thus there is no “end”. They may do things differently from each other, but this is not multiculturalism because all accept to be governed by the same laws.
    To not paraphrase St Augustine of Hippo: “God make me a libertarian now, not later!”

  • Borders are not “natural” because they are human artefacts. But they are a reflection of a biological reality from which we can’t escape. A race or nation is analogous to a family. There might be no logical reason not to swap your children for strangers who are better looking or more interesting, but not many people would do so. People who don’t have racial solidarity are going to be wiped out by those who do. In the long run, that’s going to decide the matter. Natural selection will favour those with a strong sense of racial solidarity.

    • How dare you suggest that people prefer their own kind. As Mr. Knapp explains, Most Noble Reason our Blessed Faculty will rid us of such Atavistic Nonsense. Sure, we will all be replaced by people who prefer their own kind without a moment’s hesitation, but wouldn’t that be the Most Noble Thing, really? To sacrifice ourselves and everything our countries have built, on behalf of the Other? I hear it would really boost the GDP, too, so that’s important.

    • Rob, Are things quite so bleak? You can see from above that I don’t have much time for Pollyannas, but if the universality of “racism” were acknowledged, mightn’t we be able to laugh if it off: the springs of our actions would be uncovered and thus we might be less in thrall to them (a point I should have made to Mr Knapp above). You say “a race or nation is analogous to a family”: if we can achieve a sufficient amount of mixed-race marriage, mightn’t we be able to create a sense of family? As you can see above I acknowledge the head-winds against this, but I can’t see any other way forward. What I want is a sane and secure environment for my children and their children. I don’t want to see nations obliterated or dispossessed, but I’m not that bothered about skin-colour as long as no one else is in the future (honestly, rather than hypocritically). The Americans commenting above may be more sanguine because the United States jealously guards its sovereignty and has a national narrative (not one I like very much, but…). Couldn’t we do the same? I can’t remember what Captain Kirk says to Dr Scott, but isn’t it something along the lines of “this is a useless idea but it might just work”?

      • But I see preserving our race as a laudable end in itself, and keeping nations as racially homogeneous as possible is not just a fetish without a utilitarian function. Almost all races besides whites look out for their own interests. When you mix people together in a multiracial society, it’s a zero sum game. In a multiracial Britain, Africans and Asians will look out for themselves, and given that resources are finite, this means the indigenous population loses out. I don’t think loyalty to your own people is something atavistic that you should grow out of. It’s a healthy instinct – especially for whites, seeing that we have contributed more than anyone else to civilization.

  • I got to the bit about Switzerland being a successful multicultural society before vomiting my laughter

  • A little less ad hominem, if you all please.

    • Sure, unless it ends in -ist

  • “no borders”, “no barriers to migration”, “no place for a political community”, how is this different from the withering away of state and democracy under socialism? The socialist merely substitutes the world communal for private here – “if all land is privately owned, then there can be no national borders” to arrive at the same conclusion.

    Denying community for oneself does not deny the reality of community for others, which is the issue with mass immigration. Immigrants have their own community, which when planted in our soil grows within the private and public space of what had previously been our space. Mass immigration implies a surrender of space by the natives and posits a struggle for mastery of this vacated space. The reason “Muslim immigrants” are so much the focus is because they understand this. They are the rival foxes. There will always be foxes (sometimes lions) in the hen-house.

    “I see Muslim immigration less as a problem than as an opportunity. Unlike Protestants, Catholics and Jews, Muslims as a whole haven’t yet been through the process of Enlightenment. Isn’t having so many of them among us a good chance to teach them our Enlightenment values?” Historically unique events can never be recreated. Muslims can never experience the Enlightenment, or any other process which gave birth to the current left-wing values of the West. No one denies that they can engage in a simulation of our values, whilst there is some benefit for them in doing so. But equally would they not say that their position within your City Walls is a golden opportunity for you to relinquish your Enlightenment values and embrace Islam and its values?

    Whilst Switzerland and the UK are not strict unitary cultures they are not actually multi-cultural either because they have a recent common racial and cultural ancestry, and a shared history based around a core culture. Rather they have divisions, which in the UK are exacerbated by the removal of sovereignty and the “political community” upwards to the international level. A true multi-cultural society would have no core culture, and one’s “Enlightenment values” would have the same worth as female genital mutilation and dismembering witch-children.

    The question in the author’s thought experiment was “who would you exclude?”, but the question under the current economic system is rather ‘who do we include?’ and the problem is that we have no say in the answer. Strictly speaking we do not have a migrant crisis, rather we have a crisis of governance. It is not that governments have no control over immigration, it is that the people have no control over democratic governments.

    “There’s a world-wide Civilization to be built out there” and socialists, capitalists, internationalists, globalists all heartily agree. Immigration creates a new political community, whether it is civilized is of no relevance. Destroying the national community by mass immigration forces the people into a new collective. Is not the individualists’ argument that no one should be forced into a collective against their will?

    Is there not a moral question here – does not denial of one’s own national community also entail a denial of responsibility for the other members of that community? And ultimately it will be lead to a desertion of one’s own cherished values, for an individual cannot resist the unified many.

    The traditional conservative’s view of Locke does not need stating.

  • I greatly regret that time and pressure of other commitments have prevented me from writing a full response to Neil’s post – although I may return to it in the future. I had hoped that in my absence other commenters would make some of the points I would have made in such a response, and I am pleased that this has turned out to be the case.

  • OK; as the author on this thread I have the right to sum up, don’t I?

    Sean’s comment has given me cause to think. He mentions welfare and borders. At first, I took the easy out: “Sean is right about welfare, but wrong about borders. And that is because welfare systems (such as those of the 19th century) are not inherently immoral, but borders are immoral.” But, after a few days’ thought, I do agree that there will be borders in the new world; for a time. Not national borders; but what I described, in my 2013 essay, as: “the border between civilized
    human beings and barbarians.” Basically, city-state borders.

    And thank you, Stephen Moriarty, for your contributions to this thread and to my thinking.

    • Glad to be of service

    • Thanks for this kind courtesy Neil. In thinking about this over the past few days I have realised (?!) that perhaps it is not so much that borders create community, but that they might help to prevent the type of oppressively conformist community that develops in multicultural societies, where membership of a group becomes vital to survival. I can’t quite conceptualise it, but I think that there is a paradox in that individual liberty requires always a collective will to maintain itself. Perhaps the genius of England, and perhaps this is why I have always felt infringements of English liberty so keenly, is that identity and liberty were so close: we were the people who could say what we liked.
      Thank you for your scholarship.

      • Stephen,

        You say, “individual liberty requires always a collective will to maintain itself.” You’re right there.

        But the question I want to ask is “who are my collective?” For me, the collective must be, not those who happen to live in a particular geographical area, but those who share my values, and who – among much else – desire individual liberty.

  • Pingback: Liberty, Nationalism and Patriotism | The Libertarian Alliance Blog

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