Friday, September 23, 2022

Dave Smith's Response to Me

Someone pointed me at a podcast by Dave Smith responding to my post criticizing his position on immigration. His basic argument, borrowed from Hoppe, has two parts:

1. In an anarchocapitalist society, private communities would be entitled to control who enters them.

2. As long as the government exists and owns property,  it is entitled to control the property just as a private owner would be. Smith's example is a public school excluding men from the girl's washroom. Since it is going to control the property it should control it in ways in which much of the population wants it to. Most of the population is against open borders, just as it is against letting men into the girl's washroom, hence it is appropriate for the government to control immigration.

The podcast is vague on what government property it is talking about. Smith puts the argument as if the government owns the border, but there is lots of private property adjacent to Canada, Mexico, or the ocean. To make the argument work you must, as Hoppe does, argue that the government is entitled to exclude immigrants from all government property. Since that includes the entire highway system, that comes close to excluding them from the entire country.

It does not seem to have occurred to Smith, perhaps not to Hoppe, that that line of argument justifies very nearly everything the government now does that libertarians oppose. A majority of the population believes that prostitution and drug use should be illegal. Hence, by their argument, as long as there is a government controlling property it is entitled to ban anyone who is a prostitute or patronizes one, anyone who uses or sells drugs, and similarly anyone who pays less than the minimum wage or practices medicine without a government license, from the use of any government property.

One odd thing that struck me about the podcast was that  Smith did not seem to have gone over the post he was responding to in advance. He read it aloud, commenting as he did so, and showing no awareness of which of his arguments were answered later in the post. 

Thus, for example, he quoted me writing that  “In the society as it now exists transactions between current Americans and new immigrants are voluntary, just as they would be in a fully libertarian society” and objected, at great length, that in the society as it now exists nondiscrimination law and tax funded government expenditures force transactions that are not voluntary. Only after doing so did he quote the next paragraph, where I stated the argument he had just made and, in the following paragraph, rebutted it by pointing out that open borders do not imply instant citizenship and can be combined with restrictions on what government services noncitizens are entitled to.

Responding to my point that citizenship is not a protected category under discrimination law, Smith pointed out that national origin is. But someone who discriminates against noncitizens is not discriminating on the basis of national origin, he is discriminating on the basis of citizenship. The employer is perfectly happy to hire a citizen of Mexican or Indian origin, just not a non-citizen of Mexican, Indian, or any other origin.

A good deal of Smith's later argument took it for granted that an immigrant imposes large net costs on the people already here. That is not clear even if immigrants have the right to use the public schools and collect welfare since they will also, like other people, pay taxes to fund the public schools and the welfare system. It is still less clear under the system I proposed where immigrants would not be entitled to such benefits until they become citizens.  Some, such as use of the highway system, cannot easily be separated off, but immigrants, like other people, will pay gas taxes and highway tolls.

In other parts of his response Smith did not seem to be following my arguments, not surprising if he first encountered them while doing the podcast and had to respond in real time. He goes on at great length about how the choice isn't between zero government restrictions and all government restrictions without ever noticing that one of the bits of my post that he makes fun of is a criterion for distinguishing — something he does not offer.

Ideally I would like to interact with him directly but, although he said on the podcast that he would be happy to have a back and forth with me, so far he has neither invited me to appear on his podcast nor suggested a debate.


10240 said...

Googling around, it does seem like it's considered illegal to discriminate based on citizenship in some context. E.g. :

"The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based upon an individual's citizenship or immigration status. The law prohibits employers from hiring only U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents unless required to do so by law, regulation or government contract."

This is an especially silly aspect of anti-discrimination law (in the US and AFAIK some other countries): the government itself admits that there are good reasons to discriminate based on citizenship, as it does so itself in many ways, but it makes illegal for anyone to have any stricter standards as to which foreigners they are willing to deal with than the government does.

David Friedman said...

Reading the act:
"(1) GENERAL RULE.—It is an unfair immigration-related employment practice for a person or other entity to discriminate against any individual (other than an unauthorized alien) with respect to the hiring, or recruitment or referral for a fee, of the individual for employment or the discharging of the individual from employment—

A) because of such individual's national origin, or

(B) in the case of a citizen or intending citizen (as defined in paragraph (3)), because of such individual's citizenship status"


paragraph (1), the term 'citizen or intending citizen' means an individual who—
"(A) is a citizen or national of the United States, or
"(B) is an alien who (i) is lawfully admitted for permanent residence, is granted the status of an alien lawfully admitted for temporary residence under section 245A(a)(l), is admitted as a refugee under section 207, or is granted asylum 8 USC 1157. under section 208, and 8 USC 1158.
(ii) evidences an intention to become a citizen of the United States through completing a declaration of intention to become a citizen;"

this is about "authorized aliens," meaning aliens who have gotten permission from the government to work in the U.S. I don't see how that applies to a system where no such authorization exists.


Joe G said...

You also say:

"Some, such as use of the highway system, cannot easily be separated off, but immigrants, like other people, will pay gas taxes and highway tolls."

But these hypothecated taxes and fees almost never fully fund the services they are dedicated to. Usually the hypothecated taxes and fees only partially fund the service, the rest is funded from general taxation. For roads and highways see for example:

And for waste disposal:

Justin Merritt said...

This is a topic where people I genuinely respect disagree, and I would LOVE to hear a conversation between you and Dave Smith, two thoughtful interesting anarchocapitalists.

naivetheorist said...

" A majority of the population believes that prostitution and drug use should be illegal.". this is incorrect. cannabis is a drug and a majority of the population believe that it should be legal (specifically, they believe that it should be legal but regulated). and alcohol is a legal (regulated) drug as well (although most people choose not to acknowledge that fact).

Joe G said...

The argument that the state can restrict immigration because of its ownership of property doesn't imply that it can use this ownership to impose restrictions on citizens. Citizens are effectively joint-owners of the state, so the state must let them use the property they basically jointly-own. This isn't true of non-citizens so the state can and should restrict their access.

David Friedman said...


Dave Smith has said he would like to engage with me, and I messaged him on FB suggesting it, but so far have gotten no response and no invitation.

David Friedman said...

Restricting immigration prevents citizens from hiring or renting to non-citizens, so prevents some citizens from using the property they "jointly own." The argument for it is that a majority of citizens favor that particular way of using the property.

The same argument would apply to using the property to enforce other majority preferences, such as a preference for laws against hard drugs (naivetheorist is correct about Marijuana, which is not what I was referring to). What is the difference in principle between "You cannot use the public property to move non-citizens across" an "you cannot use it to move heroin across"? What is the difference between the former and "You may not use public property, such as the streets, to visit a prostitute"?

In each case, some citizens want one rule for the use of public property, others want a different rule.

Joe G said...

The difference I see is that when citizens hire non-citizens under the current system or open borders, they aren't really granting them access to public property, as that implies some sort of agreement between a citizen and non-citizen which allows the non-citizen access. An 'access grant' like this would presumably imply a system like that which Hoppe suggested, which you referred to in a previous post, where a citizen-employer can sponsor non-citizens - and thus incur liability for their actions. But this would clearly be very different to current immigration systems or open borders.

If a citizen transports dangerous chemicals using public roads and they leak out and harm others or damage public infrastructure, obviously they're liable for that. But, under the current system or open borders, if an employer hires non-citizens who travel to work over public roads they aren't generally liable for anything else they do, even if, as with many of Sweden's recent arrivals for example, they form gangs and commit violent crimes.

Matt said...

What is the market anarchist response to extreme concentrations of market power in general? It seems like a sufficiently powerful class of market actors can reproduce all the problems of autocracy or aristocracy out of an initial state of cooperative anarchy and immigration is just a special case.

There may be equilibria where most people live under conditions that we would judge as pretty just and reasonable. It also seems possible that there are equilibria where power enables the holders to obtain more power and most people are effectively serfs.

Matt said...

It seems like you can reproduce most kinds of democratic excesses too: "An activist plurality of Vanguard customer think alcohol should be banned, and the funds they manage have sufficient market power to make life very difficult for anyone who disagrees." Maybe in market utopia alternate Ayn Rand novelizes the struggle of John Galt against the tyranny of lesser men and their oppressive pension portfolio.

M_Stirner said...

Dave Smith arguement about immigrants not contributing but using the welfare funds is an arguement against welfare state, not immigration. It is possible that many poor whites pay little or no taxes, and they are citizens and benefit from same public schools. If you use exclusion of immigrants from country to ban immigration, why can yu allow other free riders to still benefit from welfare state? His arguement then will only be valid if the citizenship was only granted to net-positive tax payers in the given country.