Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For Your Own Good

An Australian navy ship has intercepted a boat carrying nearly 60 suspected asylum seekers - the fourth such incident in less than two weeks.

"Situations around the world mean that large numbers of displaced persons are looking for settlement in wealthy, developed nations like Australia and can be targeted by, and fall prey to, people-smugglers," Australian Home Minister Brendan O'Connor said." (Recent news story)

From the standpoint of the asylum seekers, O'Connor and the Australian navy are the enemy. The "people smugglers" are the ones on their side, the people who, for a price, are trying to get them into Australia. O'Connor is trying to keep them out. In an attempt to obscure that fact, he describes the situation as the immigrants "falling prey to" the people smugglers.

I am reminded of President Clinton's explanation that the reason he was having the U.S. coastguard turn back people trying to escape from Haiti to the U.S. was for their own good, the crossing being a dangerous one. That was the point at which I decided that, whatever his qualifications as a President, Clinton was a pretty poor excuse for a human being. Stopping desperate people from escaping from their particular hell may, under some circumstances, be excusable. Pretending that you are doing it for their good is not.

If only there had been enough more of those wicked people smugglers in the late thirties for desperate emigrants to fall prey too, it might have been only five million.

52 Comments:

At 1:14 AM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Garg the Unzola said...

I'm from South Africa and we recently had a host of completely desperate displaced people from Zimbabwe cross the border. Fortuntely for them, our border patrol is useless. Fortunately for us, Zimbabwe was one of the most educated nations in Africa so South Africa gained quite a bit of skilled labour thanks to Robert Mugabe's dictatorship in Zim. Too bad the locals don't take kindly to those who are better educated than them.

 
At 3:54 AM, September 16, 2009, Anonymous Paul Birch said...

"Falling prey" is accurate, because, as criminals, the smugglers do not in general supply the service they purport to. The would-be trespassers (aka asylum seekers) are often subjected by their supposed benefactors to appalling conditions, frequently dying en route, sometimes even murdered by them. If they do get through, they will usually be abandoned; most will subsequently be caught and incarcerated or deported. They don't get what they pay for.

Also, they've been lied to and thus cheated; Australia is probably not that much better for them than where they came from. It may even, over the long run, be worse.

 
At 6:45 AM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Alex J. said...

I think of one of the "services" that "political entrepreneurs" like Clinton in your example provide is to give people the policies they actually want while spinning them in such a way as to let the voters think that they are actually not so selfishly motivated as all that. Successful politicians enable hypocrisy.

Consider minimum wage laws and minimum housing quality laws. Allegedly, they "help" the poor, but actually they just forbid the jobs and housing that the poorest would want. On the one hand, the voters might be mistaken about outcomes, but consider that on some level they want to be mistaken. They want to think of themselves as the sort of people who help the poor and they also want them gone.

On the one hand, Clinton's position is despicable, but on the other hand, only someone who would take exactly that kind of position would get elected and re-elected.

 
At 8:56 AM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

Mr Friedman,
I think you're emoting.

Let's change the focus a bit.

There are persons in the world today (chiefly Arab Moslems) who enslave other persons (chiefly black Africans). In the process, they kill more individuals than they enslave.

Then, there are tender-hearted-and-headed fools, who claiming to act in the name of Christ, go about raising money to redeem some of the enslaved individuals.

On the other hand, there are "wicked" (i.e. clear-sighted) persons, such as myself, who realize that to actually act in Christ's name in the situation requires the use of deadly force against the enslavers.


So, my question to you is: Where do you see 'For your own good' in this situation?

[I'm fairly confident that you'll agree that the passive purchasing of the enslaved, rather than the muscular punishment of the enslavers, only encourages more slave-raids and more deaths.]

So, assuming you have judged properly here, can you no apply that same reasoning to the typical "people smugglers" -- rather than do the apples-and-lugnuts comparison you presented?

 
At 9:46 AM, September 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Birch, do you really think these hopeful migrants are as clueless and dumb as you are? They perfectly know what huge risk they are taking paying to smuggling crooks, yet the opportunity well worth the risk for them. Instead of pretending to know better what's good for these unfortunate folks, go live in one of this god forsaken places.
[really pissed off]
simon...

 
At 1:31 PM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

And Simon the Anomymouse is most certainly emoting.

 
At 1:40 PM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

ps to Mr Friedman:

While I suspect that you're not a Christian, and thus the phrase "acting in Christ's name" probably does not resonate with you (and may even leave you cold), the people who raise money to purchase the freedom of the enslaved persons I mentioned tend to be (liberal) Christians, and tend to see themselves as doing a highly moral thing, in Christ's name, and in a way which allows them to keep their hands morally clean ... all the while ignoring that they're merely creating a wider market for slavers.

 
At 4:29 PM, September 16, 2009, Blogger John Markley said...

Ilion,

The problem with buying and freeing slaves is, as you say, that it encourages more slave-raiding, which is the very problem buying slaves was meant to ameliorate. The supposed parallel you're trying to draw with accepting refugees makes no sense, unless you're claiming that allowing desperate people to escape to safer territory will somehow encourage more civil wars, despots, and natural disasters.

 
At 4:49 PM, September 16, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

Mr Markley,

Mr Friedman appears to be talking about what is euphemistically called "economic refugees," not about the old Vietnamese "boat people" … and not about Jews trapped in Europe in 1933 (that’s the “lugnut” of his invalid analogy).

And, regardless of that question, Mr Friedman is most definitely talking about (and, it seems, bitching about) sovereign nations upholding their own sovereignty.

And, the parallel I drew holds: these "economic refugees" -- these gate-crashers -- keep coming because they believe they stand a good chance of being able to play off the unthinking sympathies of the people of Western nations. Or, at any rate, the ideologies of “liberals” and libertarians. If we keep sending them back, they’ll eventually have to put the effort they make to get to our shored into improving their own societies.

They come because there is a “market:” there is a pay-off, and little downside (if they survive the initial sneek-in) for invading us.

 
At 5:29 PM, September 16, 2009, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ilion thinks I'm bitching about Australia upholding its sovereignty. As he can easily see by reading my post, starting with the title, what I'm complaining about is not Australia turning back would-be immigrants but the hypocrisy of people who, when they find it necessary to do something terrible to other people, pretend they are doing it for the other people's good and that the ones really to blame are those opposing them.

Judging by the news story I linked to, one likely source of the immigrants is Sri Lanka. If Ilion thinks that Tamils from Sri Lanka are merely economic refugees seeking better wages, his view of the situation there is more optimistic than mine. Or the UN's.

 
At 6:19 AM, September 17, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

David Friedman: "Ilion thinks I'm bitching about Australia upholding its sovereignty. As he can easily see by reading my post ..."

As of this response by Mr Friedman, Ilíon *knows* that he is merely bitching because Australia is upholding its sovereignty ... which sovereignty includes the right (and frequently, the duty) to exclude any non-citizen from entering its borders.

Ilíon also knows how to "talk at" someone. And, since he understands how the phenomenon works, he can generally do it better that others do.


David Friedman: "... what I'm complaining about is not Australia turning back would-be immigrants but the hypocrisy of people who, when they find it necessary to do something terrible to other people, pretend they are doing it for the other people's good and that the ones really to blame are those opposing them."

Hypocrisy is a horrible moral failure, isn't it? And yet, how does one rationally criticize hypocrisy -- how does one even *recognize* it -- absent some objective standard of real morality?

But, that's a big topic, so let's leave it lie for now.

Now, if I really believed (at this point) that this statement accurately reflects what you're complaining about, I'd agree with you. I myself detest (and oppose when I encounter it) the passive-aggressive "fairness" or "niceness" which is another manifestation of what you claim to be on about.

Yet, as others have pointed out, these "people smugglers" are dangerous to their "clients," and many die due to this criminal activity; we Westerners do the Third-Worlders no favors by allowing some of them to sneek into our countries; and certainly not by this route. It *is* for the greater good of Third-Worlders for them all to understand that they can't get into our countries via "people smugglers."


But, as I said, I am now convinced that the above complaint does not accurately reflect what you're on about:

David Friedman: "Judging by the news story I linked to, one likely source of the immigrants is Sri Lanka. If Ilion thinks that Tamils from Sri Lanka are merely economic refugees seeking better wages, his view of the situation there is more optimistic than mine. Or the UN's."

I spit on the UN ... and anyone who asserts that the UN is a good thing also deserves to be spit upon as a fool. Or ignored as simple-minded.

Let's see: Sri Lanka? Hmmmm ... where have I heard that before? Hmmm ... Oh, yes! Sri Lanka is that island and country we used to call Ceylon; it's just off the coast of India, less than 20 miles away.

Hmmm ... what else do I know about Sri Lanka? Oh, yes: for many years, the Tamil "community" on Sri Lanka has been supporting, or at least not openly opposing, a Marxist "revolutionary" and/or "separatist movement." But, as of earlier this year, the Tamil Tigers appear to have been broken by the government of Sri Lanka.

Hmmm ... what else do I know about Sri Lanka? Is the government of Sri Lanka carrying out civilian massacres, "recruiting" child "soldiers," and so forth? Well, to the best of my knowledge, it was the Tamil Tigers doing that.

What else? Oh, yes! Sri Lanka is less than twenty miles off the coast of India! Moreover, India is already just chock-full of Tamils ... Tamils from Sri Lanka would feel right at home, finding a ready-made "community," in India.

And yet, these poor-poor "refugees" pay dangerous people good money to get them to Australia ... half-way across the Indian Ocean, rather than to India, nineteen miles away and already with millions of Tamils.

Please! Don't insult our intelligence: your complaint is about Australia (or the US, as in the original post) exercising its sovereignty.

 
At 10:01 PM, September 17, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

There's nothing moral about "exercising your sovereignty" by impeding the free movement of people. If people were allowed to travel without hindrance as they wished, there would be no need for them to resort to "criminals" to help them to do so.

In fact, "exercising your sovereignty" is generally a euphemism for unpleasant behaviour.

 
At 8:01 AM, September 18, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

Jonathan: "There's nothing moral about "exercising your sovereignty" by impeding the free movement of people. If people were allowed to travel without hindrance as they wished, there would be no need for them to resort to "criminals" to help them to do so."

And you, Jonathan, express the opinion of an immoral fool (that's a redundancy, by the way). Are you an immoral fool? Or have you just not *really* thought about what you assert?

 
At 8:04 AM, September 18, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

And now, Jonathan (and other "nice" persons), you'll bitch, will you not, because of what I have said? You will, of course, ignore what you said.

 
At 2:36 PM, September 18, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Ilíon, I'm neither immoral nor a fool, but I'm sure that my morality differs from yours. No two people have exactly the same morality.

 
At 9:10 PM, September 18, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

For anyone here favoring completely unrestricted immigration, I'd like to hear an integer: under open borders, how many of the Earth's 6.8 billion people would be living in America before we reach an equilibrium between immigration and emigration? I'd wager that, if the open-border policy somehow persisted despite all its consequences, our population wouldn't stabilize until we had about 1.5 billion living here.

Next question: is there no sense in which many or most economic refugees could be considered to be free-riding on our public goods and natural resources -- and charitable inclinations?

Bonus question: Can't a policy of consistently and publicly turning back economic refugees be seen as in the interest of potential economic refugees if 1) people-smuggling is sufficiently dangerous to those smuggled and 2) the target nation is ultimately going to foil the migratory ambitions of most of the economic refugees who attempt migration? In other words, if most are not going to get away with it, and it's dangerous, then can't it be good for them to be discouraged from trying it?

 
At 1:09 AM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Just to clarify, I wouldn't urge countries to throw open their borders suddenly overnight, because it would cause chaos. I see the free movement of people as something that's right in principle and a desirable long-term goal to be approached as fast as is feasible.

As for free-riding, I think people should be allowed to move freely (in principle); I don't suggest that they should be rewarded for doing so. If you not only welcome them in but give them free handouts, that's your problem.

I'm not an American and I'm not talking about America in particular; this is a global issue.

 
At 1:34 AM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Incidentally, Brian, I suppose that a significant proportion of the world's population couldn't afford to travel to the USA, even if they wanted to. And another significant proportion wouldn't want to. But yes, in the short term I suppose quite a lot of people would move if (hypothetically) they were suddenly allowed. How many, one can only guess.

A lot of travellers would choose destinations other than the USA, given a free choice. Personally, I've never had any particular desire to live in the USA. I currently live in Spain. The EU permits freedom of movement within its (gradually expanding) borders, which is a nice step in the right direction.

 
At 7:46 AM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

Jonathan, your words "chaos" and "feasible" completely paper over the disagreement you were trying to register when you said "there's nothing moral about impeding the free movement of people." My point is that the disagreement here really isn't about "morality" so much as it is about "chaos" and what's "feasible". But it's just not as much fun to couch disagreement in those terms, I guess.

My question about charity was thrown in only to make you think about the differential between the charity you'd extend to a beggar on your sidewalk compared to the charity you currently extend to, say, the most destitute people in Mexico. I was more interested in the angles about natural resources and public goods, but you ignored them (as is your right).

You also ignored my request that your answer contain at least one integer, and thus evades the point. If I thought open borders would net us only 50 million economic refugees, I might say what the hell, go for it. A billion is another story altogether. Magnitudes matter when it comes to free-riding. Given the plummeting costs of transportation technology, I don't think that costs would keep the number of refugees under hundreds of millions. Remember, with open borders, wealthy donors could completely and permanently change a refugee's life circumstances for as little as $100, simply by boating them to America and dumping them on our shores.

And, for the record, you ignored the bonus question, which pointed out a possible rebuttal to David's charge that Clinton is "a pretty poor excuse for a human being".

 
At 7:54 AM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

P.S. My question was about America opening its borders, not about all borders going away. If your "morality" complaint is only against America being a holdout as all other borders melt away, it loses all force in my judgment.

Regarding the EU, note that the concept of a "border" in these discussions is a demarcation between regions with different policies. I favor open borders between such regions, and note that opening such borders would not create a flow of economic refugees.

 
At 3:02 PM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Brian, my first post in this thread was in reply to Ilíon, who seemed to think that turning away refugees is a moral action to be proud of. I disagreed with that attitude.

As I see it, turning people away is something that may need to be done for practical reasons, but it should be done with regret and shamefacedly, not with pride. Especially in the USA of all places, a country created and populated entirely by immigrants.

My argument was with him, not with you. I'm impressed by the reasonableness and politeness of your debating style; I don't come across this often enough.

I ignored your bonus question because it was really directed at our host David Friedman, not at me. I haven't made any remarks about Clinton and I really don't know whether turning migrants away might in some cases be in their interests. But I guess the migrants don't think it's in their interests.

I'm not replying at full length to all your points because I feel rather embarrassed at taking up too much space on a blog that isn't mine.

However, I would mention that opening borders within the EU has in fact created flows of economic and other migrants; perhaps not enough to be called a flood, but enough to be noticed as significant in some countries. My impression that there's a first wave of migration when borders are first opened, and then some of them change their minds and go home again a while later.

 
At 3:31 PM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Perhaps I should declare an interest: in my career so far, I've worked in Zambia, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, France, and Spain. It's not difficult for me to sympathize with migrants.

 
At 9:27 AM, September 20, 2009, Blogger Ilíon said...

== On morality and moral assertions ==

Jonathan: "There's nothing moral about "exercising your sovereignty" by impeding the free movement of people. If people were allowed to travel without hindrance as they wished, there would be no need for them to resort to "criminals" to help them to do so.

In fact, "exercising your sovereignty" is generally a euphemism for unpleasant behaviour.
"

Ilíon: "And you, Jonathan, express the opinion of an immoral fool (that's a redundancy, by the way). Are you an immoral fool? Or have you just not *really* thought about what you assert?"

Jonathan: "Ilíon, I'm neither immoral nor a fool, but I'm sure that my morality differs from yours. No two people have exactly the same morality."

There are no such things as "your morality" and "my morality" -- any more than there are such things as "your truth" and "my truth." There is truth, and there is morality. Period. There is "I recognize and submit to this moral assertion or this truth claim," and there is "I refuse to recognize and submit to this moral assertion or this truth claim" -- both of which positions are senseless unless morality is real, objective, and unitary.

In your last post to me, you are flying the flag of moral relativism; that is, you are implicitly denying that morality is real, objective, and unitary. But, in your first post, you are making an objective moral assertion (which happens to be false); that is, you are making an assertion which is senseless, and pointless, unless morality is real, objective, and unitary.


So, again, I ask: are you dishonest about the issue and reality of morality (are you a fool, are you intellectually dishonest?), or are you ignorant about it (have you not thought enough, and properly, about it)? There is only one other possibility to explain your error and/or confusion on the issue -- and which potential explanation I am certain we can reject out-of-hand -- that you are too stupid to understand the matter.


== On reading comprehension; Or, try to not misrepresent others ==

Jonathan: "Brian, my first post in this thread was in reply to Ilíon, who seemed to think that turning away refugees is a moral action to be proud of. I disagreed with that attitude."

== Back to moral assertions ==

Jonathan: "As I see it, turning people away is something that may need to be done for practical reasons, but it should be done with regret and shamefacedly, not with pride. Especially in the USA of all places, a country created and populated entirely by immigrants."

A foundationless moral assertion ... and the repetition of a stupid trope.

 
At 8:15 AM, September 21, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Ilíon, if you think there is one true, objective morality, then describe it and prove it. I don't think you can. Morality is a human construct and it is subjective. Neither you nor I can make an objective moral statement because no such thing exists.

If your intelligence matches your courtesy, you're a good deal stupider than I am.

 
At 8:55 AM, September 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Morality is a human construct and it is subjective. Neither you nor I can make an objective moral statement because no such thing exists."

Then what the heck are you doing posting here and calling certain things "wrong," and others "a step in the right direction"? Who cares about your merely subjective opinions? Where do you get off complaining about llion's "courtesy" -- it's just a whim of yours to think he's being discourteous!

("And your "prove it to me" is farcical -- you've deliberately fled from the truth, so that you will not allow any sort of proof past your closed eyes.)

 
At 12:00 AM, September 25, 2009, Blogger Jonathan said...

Anonymous, all opinions are subjective, and I care about yours about as much you care about mine.

 
At 10:17 PM, September 25, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, Jonathan, '2 + 2 = 4' -- just a matter of opinion, you know!

 
At 11:36 AM, September 26, 2009, Blogger oeconomist.com said...

Of Bill Clinton's various campaign promises, there were only two of which I was aware that I wanted him to keep: more humane treatment of the Haitian boat people, and open acceptance of homosexuals into the military. I was jaded enough not to be greatly surprised by his failure on each score, but still very saddened.

 
At 3:02 AM, September 27, 2009, Blogger MIchael said...

As a student of Austrian Economics and an Anarcho-Capitalist, all this mumbo jumbo is easy to understand.

Q: Should we have open borders or closed?

A: Privatize all property. The owner of the property can decide what to do on his own property.

Q: Is it okay to initiate force on others to do something "for their own good"?

A: Never. If people suffer any condition as a result of their own action, they see the means they choose as rational to obtain the end they desire. If I suffer a broken leg as a result of jumping on a trampoline, you cannot objectively tell me it was not worth it. If i get hurt by being smuggled into a country, you cannot objectively tell me that turning me away is for my own good because i might get hurt in the process.

In Austrian-nerd terms, value is subjective. You cannot objectively tell a person that the Marginal Cost is greater than the Marginal Benefit of an action they choose because their psychic gain/utility/happiness is not cardinal. But politicians do not care for this. They will simply use their power and public legitimacy to do as they wish.

I agree with Dr. Friedman on this one. I believe it is nonsense to turn people away for their own good when they clearly disagree, their action being all the evidence that shows they find the MB > MC (at the time of action).

 
At 10:28 AM, September 27, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

Michael, I note that you didn't answer any of my three questions posted on Sep. 18 above. I still wonder whether any open-borders dogmatist is willing to address them thoughtfully.

 
At 7:57 PM, October 07, 2009, Anonymous Brian N. said...

"[U]nder open borders, how many of the Earth's 6.8 billion people would be living in America before we reach an equilibrium between immigration and emigration?"

Two answers...

1 - It is none of my business. It is also none of yours. I will let you know when the limit is reached on my property, but only if I feel like it.

2 - Have you forgotten Bastiat's dictum that if "Goods do not cross borders, soldiers will," (paraphrase) and what it implies here? Perhaps I ought to reverse your question...how much money are you prepared to steal to pay for an army to keep 'them' out of 'your' country? At what point would you be willing to start opening the borders instead of fighting endless unpopular wars and hiring food tasters to keep them closed and yourself unassassinated? Further question, whose values are you realizing by this? Who, besides yourself, benefits from this behavior in any way? Who are you to tell other people that your presumption over their lives is all for their good, when they would do otherwise than you wish for them? To put it more plainly, who died and made you king?

"[I]s there no sense in which many or most economic refugees could be considered to be free-riding on our public goods and natural resources -- and charitable inclinations?"

Our public goods? You speak of divvied loot paid for in productivity robbed at gunpoint. The only thing that is yours is what was stolen from you personally to pay for it. Whether you like what the thief bought at the pawn shop or not, that is not the thing to which you are entitled.(1) You are entitled to what he stole from you. Natural resources, if unowned, are no one's property. The immigrant that makes use of them is no more or less a free rider than anyone else. Do you propose deporting large sections of the 'native' population for free riding? As for charitable inclinations...if you do not want to give things to people, then don't. You don't own 'America' and neither do I. Other people coming into 'America' has nothing to do with you or I being 'charitable' in any sense. When one gives away things unowned, or owned by others, one is not being charitable. Since I am not the late-life reincarnation of Horace Greeley, I do not take his unhealthy attitude towards charity. I refuse to fall into the false dichotomy of social Darwinism on one side and Universalism on the other. Getting back to the free-riding on natural resources; if they are someone's property, it's not free riding...it is stealing. One can certainly conceive of a reasonable way to deal with theft in general.

"In other words, if most are not going to get away with it, and it's dangerous, then can't it be good for them to be discouraged from trying it?"

You have artificially disconnected the 'not going to get away with it' from the 'discouraged from trying it'...in this case, they stem from the same thing. An analogy; you're addicted to Latvian folk-dance albums (no, really, that intervention we staged last week didn't do a damn thing and you're still listening to that...stuff) and I am a friend. The government declares Latvian folk-dance music illegal, and then I lecture you on the dangers of it (you might get arrested, women may laugh at you, Latvians may want to party at your house) to get you to not even try. Do you see how this is unlike the situation with immigration/emigration? In order for this analogy to hold, I would also have to be the guy threatening to throw you in jail for listening to weird music. I would have to be the reason why that was a possibility, at the root of the whole matter. Without that, this 'discourage[ment]' is just a paternalistic threat.

'don't smoke crack or I'll kill you...because I love you'

 
At 10:09 PM, October 07, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

1) Bzzzt. No integer, no credit. You either have the intellectual courage to face the consequences of your position, or not.

2) If your perspective depends on a) wishing away the fact that the tragedy of the commons constitutes aggression, and b) pretending that none of us should feel we have any stake in the public goods that we've financed, well, then, thanks for confirming that such a self-marginalized perspective will rightly continue to have zero influence on public policy.

3) Nobody died and made me king of immigration policy, and that's obviously why I can posit the brute fact of my premise in question 3 without assuming the total moral responsibility for it that you fantasize I should have.

 
At 8:00 AM, October 08, 2009, Anonymous Daniel W. Grow said...

To have a "tragedy of the commons," you need a government to define/create the commons. To say the the tragedy of the commons is "aggression" is an invitation to justify government to police the aggression. So the inherent conflict between governments and property rights (i.e., rules for conflict avoidance) is thereby used as the justification of the existence of the very government that caused the conflict in the first place. Kinda funny. Same thing with the so-called free rider problem

 
At 12:29 PM, October 08, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

No government created the atmosphere, and no government created my right to access the atmosphere. Ditto for all the other resources listed in the Free Earth Manifesto.

 
At 3:19 PM, October 08, 2009, Anonymous Brian N. said...

"1) Bzzzt. No integer, no credit. You either have the intellectual courage to face the consequences of your position, or not."

If I owned a farm, and you asked me how many unicorns I think is best to raise on a farm that size, and I point out that the question is ridiculous, I don't have to answer you directly. Stop asking stupid questions, and I'll bother to address what you say directly. Why don't you answer my question? Unhappy at the prospect the inquiry might go somewhere? As I said, I cannot and I shall not speak, or claim to speak, for anyone who has not asked me to speak for them. I speak only for myself. I refuse to prescribe what is good for 'the country' because it is beyond the scope of my interests, knowledge and position. I have no right, and I will not act as though I did. Perhaps I should clear some air up right here...I am not an advocate of open borders or closed borders. I see it as a false dichotomy resting on fundamentally statist premises. One must first accept the justice of the state in order to consider the debate in that fashion.

"2) If your perspective depends on a) wishing away the fact that the tragedy of the commons constitutes aggression, and b) pretending that none of us should feel we have any stake in the public goods that we've financed, well, then, thanks for confirming that such a self-marginalized perspective will rightly continue to have zero influence on public policy."

How, exactly, does the tragedy of the commons constitute aggression? There's a reason why it's called a tragedy and not a crime; the failure is institutional, not individual. No one person bears ultimate moral responsibility for the problem, and that is precisely how it becomes such a problem. As Mr. Friedman has pointed out, the state is a tragic mistake. The point isn't that you shouldn't feel that way, but that you don't have a stake in anything other than what was taken from you. Reverse the perspective - buying a stolen good does not mean that you have a property right in it. The person who was robbed has that right. The original victim has a right to seek out their stolen goods, and you would be complicit in the theft if you knowingly and actively continued to hold on to the item(s) in question. But let's home in on one little teensy weensy point:

"thanks for confirming that such a self-marginalized perspective will rightly continue to have zero influence on public policy."

This is worse than the second insult you've pointlessly dropped; it's a fallacy.

"3) Nobody died and made me king of immigration policy, and that's obviously why I can posit the brute fact of my premise in question 3 without assuming the total moral responsibility for it that you fantasize I should have."

That's the best you've got? You know you're wrong so you're going to try to blink past it? My original question still stands; whose values, besides your own, are realized by this? Keep in mind that there really is no such thing as cardinal utility, and very persuasive arguments have been advanced by various thinkers that inter-subjective value comparisons are impossible. If you're going to claim that someone other than you is going to benefit by border fences, checkpoints, requiring immigrants to keep up paperwork for you, etc. then you have to be willing to say for whom, and how you know this. If you aren't going to go that far, and admit the only person's interests you think of in all that institutional violence (including the violence needed to build and maintain it) is yourself, I only need point out that I do not share your values so you can keep your filthy paws off my money and leave me in peace.

 
At 3:41 PM, October 08, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

1) There are about 6.5 billion humans on Earth outside the borders you would have America open. There are zero unicorns on either side of those borders.

2) When you impair my access to an unowned resource by monopolizing, depleting, polluting, or congesting it, you commit aggression against me and everybody else with similar access rights.

3) I repeat the premises of my original question: "if 1) people-smuggling is sufficiently dangerous to those smuggled and 2) the target nation is ultimately going to foil the migratory ambitions of most of the economic refugees who attempt migration". Asking you to recognize the current and foreseeable truth of these two premises is obviously not the same thing as asking you to endorse to policy regimes that make them true.

 
At 4:20 PM, October 08, 2009, Anonymous Brian N. said...

"1) There are about 6.5 billion humans on Earth outside the borders you would have America open. There are zero unicorns on either side of those borders."

I? Moi? I thought I cleared that problem up. I would not have 'America' open or close anything. I will open or close my own property as I see fit, and I act and judge no further than that. Do what you will with your own.

To answer your question, or the hypothetical unicorn problem, requires that we deal in magical thinking and even presume superhuman knowledge. I will not do this. That is precisely why I used the example I did.

"2) When you impair my access to an unowned resource by monopolizing, depleting, polluting, or congesting it, you commit aggression against me and everybody else with similar access rights."

I have a problem with this definition. If it is unowned, then there is no aggression. You only have access, not access rights, as long as it remains unowned and someone does not use it.* By your interpretation of the problem any use of 'public' goods at all constitutes an act of aggression. I'm not saying this is wrong, but it does add a further tangle to the whole discussion.

"Asking you to recognize the current and foreseeable truth of these two premises is obviously not the same thing as asking you to endorse to policy regimes that make them true."

I am not a Pragmatist. I refuse to endorse the derivative consequences of an evil act. Just so we can drag this cat out of the bag, extending Mr. Friedman's example, would it have been a good idea to tell the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto or the citizens of Leningrad in 1934 to stay put and do what they were told, they'd just get turned back when they got to their intended destination anyway? Would you tell them that? Given what the Haitians were escaping, it's a fair comparison.

*Since everyone constantly uses and contributes to the atmosphere, it does represent a special set of problems. Among the Austrians, Rothbard and Block have only dealt with air pollution in the specific context of discreet property damages. They never dealt with a scenario involving actors producing long-term deleterious effects that each person might contribute to in a minute way, to the point where any one person could not act to reverse the damage, nor could they even (outside certain specific scenarios, like detonating nuclear weapons in the upper atmosphere) especially increase their damage quota in their entire lifetime. I sorely wish Rothbard had. Having his thoughts handy would probably enrich our discussion in a considerable way.

 
At 4:58 PM, October 08, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

1) Ah, if we're only talking about the border policy of your own personal property, then we're done talking. I wasn't aware that the Haitians David was talking about were trying to land on your own private beach as your guests. :-)

2) Perhaps you now are starting to grasp the point that my question was trying to make: different premises about rights in unowned resources can lead to different conclusions about rights to migrate, and the moral outrage of people like you and David smuggles in assumptions that not all of us agree with.

3) What I am challenging you to recognize is that America just isn't going to accept every Haitian economic refugee who wants to come here. You may not like it, you may call this "evil", but that doesn't make it any less true. __IF__ it is true, __THEN__ it may be good for the class of would-be economic refugees in aggregate that they realize that migration attempts aren't worth the risk. If you don't cancel lottery payouts, many people will keep buying tickets, even when the expected value of doing so isclearly negative.

It's silly -- no, grotesque -- to compare economic migration to Nazi efforts to liquidate 100% of the people in the Warsaw Ghetto. By Godwin's Law, you lose. Not only that, but your own deny-reality-no-matter-the-consquences logic backfires on you: why should you counsel the Jews or Haitians to flee, and thus "endorse the derivative consequences of the evil" that they wish to flee? Why do you get to dictate which extant evils we should factor into our moral calculations, and which other extant evils we must blithely ignore?

 
At 6:22 PM, October 08, 2009, Anonymous Brian N. said...

"By Godwin's Law, you lose."

Godwin's law isn't a law. That you would seriously invoke such nonsense and then go on to make an utterly ridiculous argument in the wake of such does not surprise me. This:

"Not only that, but your own deny-reality-no-matter-the-consquences logic backfires on you: why should you counsel the Jews or Haitians to flee, and thus "endorse the derivative consequences of the evil" that they wish to flee? Why do you get to dictate which extant evils we should factor into our moral calculations, and which other extant evils we must blithely ignore?"

Makes no sense and cannot reasonably be derived from anything I have written. I'd draw out the thought experiment that extends from the argument I intend to make, but it is clear that it would be a waste. You are not interested in actually reading what I have to say.

 
At 6:32 PM, October 08, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

I'm happy to let readers decide for themselves

* whether you've answered my three questions and addressed the points they made,
* the nomological status of Godwin's Law and whether you ran afoul of it, and
* whether you've been selective here in what "evils" factor into your moral calculus.

 
At 2:32 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Brian N. said...

I'm probably wasting time but here's a little something for your amusement...

"If only there had been enough more of those wicked people smugglers in the late thirties for desperate emigrants to fall prey too, it might have been only five million."

Guess who wrote that, and where you can find it. Even if Godwin's law wasn't a pile of worthless argument shunting claptrap, I'm guessing once you figure the source out, you'll realize it would not apply. I'm not going to respond to anything you have to say in the future in this or any other venue. It's obvious you're not worth my time; you're so interested in scoring debate points you didn't even bother to carefully read the original post, which sets up the context of my remarks.

 
At 2:58 PM, October 09, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

Again, readers can decide for themselves whether conditions in Haiti are comparable to a genocide that killed about 80% of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Readers can also assess the irony of your complaints about me not addressing your alleged points, given 1) your flat-out refusal to answer my first question, 2) your obliviousness to my point about how a natural commons impacts migration ethics, and 3) your flat-out refusal to either admit or deny the truth of the premises of my third question.

 
At 9:35 AM, October 13, 2009, Anonymous Daniel W. Grow said...

A “tragedy of the commons” argument addressing the case of “air pollution” sadly ignores that our legal system, historically, created a problem that previously had been solved. Legal principles consistent with a property rights/libertarian system were abandoned to “promote industry.” I expect we’d have no pollution “problems” if we had simply stuck with a property rights system, rather than a regulatory system. And Rothbard did address air pollution. Rothbard: “Air pollution is a private nuisance generated from one person's landed property onto another and is an invasion of the airspace appurtenant to land and, often, of the person of the landowner. Basic to libertarian theory of property rights is the concept of homesteading, in which the first occupier and user of a resource thereby makes it his property. Therefore, where a “polluter” has come first to the pollution and has preceded the landowner in emitting air pollution or excessive noise onto empty land, he has thereby homesteaded a pollution or excessive noise easement. Such an easement becomes his legitimate property right rather than that of the later, adjacent landowner. Air pollution, then, is not a tort but only the ineluctable right of the polluter if he is simply acting on a homestead easement. But where there is no easement and air pollution is evident to the senses, pollution is a tort per se because it interferes with the possession and use of another's air. Boundary crossing -- say by radio waves or low-level radiation -- cannot be considered aggression because it does not interfere with the owner's use or enjoyment of his person or property. Only if such a boundary crossing commits provable harm-according to principles of strict causality and beyond a reasonable doubt -- can it be considered a tort and subject to liability and injunction. A joint tort, in which defendants are compelled to defend themselves jointly, should apply only if all acted in concert. Where their actions are separate, the suits must be separate as well, and the liability apportioned separately. Plaintiffs should be able to join their suits against a defendant only if their cases have a common element predominating over the separate and individual interests. Class action suits are impermissible beyond a voluntary joinder of plaintiffs because they presume to act for and bind class members who have not agreed to join in the suit. Finally, we must renounce the common practice of writers on environmental law of acting as special pleaders for air pollution plaintiffs, lamenting whenever plaintiffs are not allowed to ride roughshod over defendants. The overriding factor in air pollution law, as in other parts of the law, should be libertarian and property rights principles rather than the convenience or special interests of one set of contestants.”

 
At 10:11 AM, October 13, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

http://libertarianmajority.net/can-torts-police-all-negative-externalities

 
At 1:38 PM, October 13, 2009, Anonymous Daniel W. Grow said...

While one might say that posting links without discussion is “micro-aggression,” just in case someone follows that link and they are at all persuaded, I’d suggest they consider the following:

In contrast with a regulatory system, a property rights based system greatly encourages a progressive enlargement of the supply of usable, accessible natural resources, enabled by the progressive nature of human knowledge and the progressive nature of capital accumulation in a capitalist society. In general, advancing scientific and technological knowledge serves to further enlarge and improve the supply not only of consumers' goods but also of capital goods. Such economic activity, and perhaps some “micro aggression,” does not create a “tragedy of the commons” or a “market failure,” but instead has the inherent tendency to improve his environment, as all economic activity has as its sole purpose the improvement of the environment; i.e., it aims exclusively at the improvement of the external, material conditions of human life. Production and economic activity are precisely the means by which man adapts his environment to himself and thereby improves it.

“Micro aggression” can only be meaningful if some "intrinsic value" of nature (the alleged value of nature in and of itself, totally apart from any connection to human life and well-being) is assumed. And unless the definition is totally arbitrary and meaningless, it must further be assumed that “micro aggression” exists every time man changes anything whatever in the preexisting state of nature. Other than to justify real aggression by states, why build a whole theory of state power on possible local degradation of the quality of air or water by “micro-aggression” while ignoring the enormous positives, which are of overwhelmingly greater significance.

There is a real disconnect between the state using it’s monopoly on coercive power to endeavor to manipulate the behavior of any given individual on the grounds that a single person, as one of the many tens or hundreds of millions of individuals using fossil fuels or CFCs, is "guilty" of some “micro-aggression (say by adding a PPM of this or that). In short, efforts to punish “micro-aggression” is akin to holding someone responsible for something for which he is simply not in fact responsible. Consequences of the actions of the entire human race considered collectively, rather than the actions of any given individual (including any given individual private business firm), is equivalent to the justification of state coercion based on actions not morally caused by human beings at all, that is to say, to acts of nature.

Even if it is assumed that such “micro-aggressions” have identifiable consequences, the response to consequences of the actions of the human race considered collectively should be the same as the appropriate response of man to nature in general. Individual human beings must be free to deal with nature to their own maximum individual advantage (subject to the libertarian rules for conflict avoidance), and man will deal with the any negative forces of nature resulting as byproducts of his own activity taken in the aggregate in precisely the same successful way that he regularly deals with the primary forces of nature, i.e., the economic freedom of a capitalist society.

The “micro-aggression” issue only arises when the problem is viewed from the perspective of government central planners.Individuals must be allowed to decide, on the basis of profit-and-loss calculations, what changes they needed to make in their businesses and in their personal lives, in order best to adjust to the situation. Individuals must be allowed to decide where it desirable to own land, locate farms and businesses, and live and work, and what new comparative advantages each location has for the production of which goods.

(Credit to is owed to another author for much the analysis above, as much of the above was drawn from an article I read a while back. My sincere apologies to the original author.)

 
At 2:02 PM, October 13, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

Your "contrast" is a fallacy of the excluded middle.

Nothing you've posted here answers my empirical claim about the market's failure to regulate negative externalities.

Your entire argument falls apart at the word "akin" here: "efforts to punish 'micro-aggression' is akin to holding someone responsible for something for which he is simply not in fact responsible". Yes, a $1 fine is "akin" to a zero-dollar fine, but the aggregate consequences of the two approaches are not "akin" at all.

Pretending that aggregated micro-aggression is not a problem does not make it so. Wishing negative externalities didn't exist does not make it so.

I repeat: Saying micro-aggression should only be covered by civil torts is nothing less than saying that aggression is permitted if defending against it costs an individual more than the harm it causes her. That's not a very libertarian position.

 
At 3:48 PM, October 13, 2009, Anonymous Daniel Grow said...

Brian-

Just agree with me that all of your arguments are justifications for government intervention in markets. Let's not be vague about that. Just agree that markets fail, and that only the state can fix 'em. Admit that, and then we can work out the details...

 
At 3:57 PM, October 13, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

My argument is for a particular sort of government intervention, and that the result tends to be better than the alternative. My arguments do not imply that anything labeled a "government intervention" is justified, or that the government interventions I advocate yield perfect economic efficiency.

So yes, we've wandered into the anarchism vs. minarchism debates that Dan and I have enjoyed on the Libertarian Party platform committee. I see no need to rehash them here.

Rather, I'm curious if any anarchist or hardcore Austrian here can acknowledge that their moral outrage on this topic smuggles in assumptions that not all of us agree with. In other words, can anybody argue for Dr. Friedman's original moral outrage without invoking premises that imply anarchism?

I don't think they can, and nobody here has even tried.

 
At 9:35 AM, October 15, 2009, Anonymous Daniel W. Grow said...

Brian, because Child obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, and a third of the people born after 2000 will be diagnosed with diabetes (a disease whose effects include blindness, amputation, coma and death), why not conclude government action is the answer? Because diabetes is a disease linked with obesity, why not conclude that food manufacturers have filled foods with empty calories, often with additives such as high-fructose corn syrup. From 1970 to 1990 American’s intake of high-fructose corn syrup rose more than 1,000% per person, paralleling our skyrocketing rates of obesity. The pollution of our food supply certainly sounds like “micro-aggression” as you’ve defined it, so why not tax it away? A Calorie-Added Tax could kick in whenever a food is produced using high-fructose corn syrup or any other sweetener. (PS - Is it important that corn syrup is used in so many products from ketchup to soda to bread to candy to yogurt to cereal to Tater Tots because it's so cheap, and cheap because American taxpayers subsidize industrial corn growers?) Sounds like a “tragedy of commons” problem to me.

And as to the second issue, the “moral outrage” business, I suspect the issue is that it is morally outrageous when governments lie. While I’m not sure how a governmental lie falls into the cost benefit analysis (enforcement of a property deprivation is often less expensive when packaged with a good lie), I think folks in general will agree that it is bad to lie, agent of the state or not. But in the end, I think you are right to the extent that it boils down to a no-governent argument, because the state has to lie to justify its existence.

 
At 1:00 PM, October 15, 2009, Blogger Brian Holtz said...

Dan, there's obviously no negative externality or tragedy of the commons in your "pollution of the food supply" example. You either have no idea what you're arguing against, or you you have no scruples against invoking analogies you know are irrelevant. I thought better of you.

It's the height of intellectual laziness -- or outright self-delusion -- to assume that all government justifications for its own existence are "lies" perpetrated by people who secretly know that government is unjustifiable. Dan, do you think I "lie" when I argue that government is necessary?

I don't see any particular "lie" lurking in the obvious answer to my third question: IF most are not going to get away with it, AND it's dangerous, then can't it be good for them to be discouraged from trying it?

 
At 8:56 AM, October 17, 2009, Anonymous Daniel W. Grow said...

While I certainly thing that a fair argument could be made (by someone other than me) that the health of American children, as a group, is a valuable resource, and that the public has a duty to make sure the resource is not abused or destroyed by the bad decisions of individuals/big companies. If a law could be passed that, at a very low cost, significantly improves the health of young people, yielding significant benefits, I’d guess that under some analysis the law would be justified. Especially if the public is paying the medical bills for the plump youngsters. I’m confident that if you put your mind to it, you could couch the argument in terms you’d find satisfactory (because most assuredly you’ll criticize the way I have stated it). I’d even suggest saving children from needless obesity and the related health consequences would be a more compelling justification for the jurisdictional monopoly on force and coercion we call the state than protecting the globe from magnetic waves or holes in the ozone layer.

Turning to the “lie” business, I think someone can honestly hold a mistaken belief. In general, I am confident that politicians are experts in the business of mistaken beliefs. And I guess one could continue to hold a belief, and honestly believe it was true, even after history has proven the belief wrong, logic has proven the belief wrong, and a clear motive can be shown why the individual might not abandon the belief.

All of that being said, perhaps it might reflect poorly upon you to start in with the “no idea,” “no scruples,” “intellectual laziness,” and “self-delusion” banter? I have no problem with being wrong when I’m wrong, but hey, how about some decorum?

 
At 4:28 AM, September 06, 2010, Blogger Ilíon said...

The call for "decorum" is *always* the first refuge and demand of petty wannabe tyrants ... when they don't yet have the power to silence via force those who oppose their schemes.

 

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