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.