The Libertarian Paradox and Bad Policy

I don't want to live in an area that indiscriminately lets in millions of poor immigrants from the third world. I believe such a place would be unpleasant to live in. At least I want my government to keep out the crazies with bombs.

Libertarian moral philosophy clearly allows me to pursue this goal privately. I am allowed to band together with other people, buy up some land, and prevent immigrants we don't want from moving to our gated community. Furthermore, in some future anarchist seasteading utopia where governments were privately owned and operated, libertarian philosophy allows me to choose to patronize a seastead government that is discriminating in how many and what kinds of immigrants it accepts (I'm moving to the one with Megan Fox). What's more, judging from public opinion polls I believe such discriminating seasteads would be vastly more popular and profitable than open borders seasteads.

But because we do not live in a libertarian world and much of the property in the United States is owned by the government, many libertarians (example) hold that we have no moral choice but to pursue an open borders policy and let in any immigrant who wishes to come.

This is an example of what I am christening the "libertarian paradox". Because of the governing systems currently in place, libertarian moral philosophy compels us to advocate for bad policies that nobody really wants. Because the roads and borders are not private property, it would be immoral for us to use government force to prevent some immigrants from using them to move here.

And then libertarians wonder why their message is so unpopular, all the while they are advocating policies that nobody, not even most libertarians, would voluntarily choose to live under if they had the personal free choice.

I'll give you another example of the L-paradox. A few months ago I read a blog post in support of a policy of mandatory paternity tests at birth. The author, and myself, think this policy would prevent severe injustice and provide incentive for people to act in more moral and honest ways. But then the author, a libertarian, backed off from his advocacy because he felt uncomfortable making any policy mandatory and thereby using government force on anybody.

But if we had a free choice between living in a society with mandatory paternity testing and one without it, both the author and myself would cheerfully choose the first. Again, libertarian moral philosophy compels us to pollute our real, current world with bad policy, saving our good ideas for a future world of private governments.

I'm a structural libertarian. I think we will have a more pleasant, productive, prosperous, and just world if people had substantive individual choice over the political systems in which they live. I believe modern governments are incurably insane, and most policy is too expansive. But I think it perverse that libertarian moral philosophy constrains us to make bad decisions until we achieve libertopia.

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Consequences

You are looking at the intended consequences of your policy and assuming there are no unintended consequences.

Imagine that you want to move to the seastead with Megan Fox. Now further imagine that she wants you to move there.

[Come back when you're ready...]

Would you be so supportive of an immigration policy that forcibly denies you entry to her seastead? That makes Megan choose between living with her family and friends or moving to whatever backwater you happened to be born in?

Government is a false utopia. Proponents find some desirable outcome, promise that the right amount of force will be wielded with precision by wise rulers to achieve their outcome. There will be no mistakes in planning or execution.

Libertarianism, in so far as it is the social system based on the Non-Aggression Principle, is anti-utopian. It sets a standard for behavior and says that we must accept the order that emerges from that behavior. If an individual does not like that order, she must find ways to act which are still consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle which yield a different outcome.

To avoid the L-paradox, you must convince your audience to compare actual worlds that result from each social system. Comparing a wished-for world of one system with an actual world of the other is a rigged game.

You can make the exact same

You can make the exact same argument about private property. Most of the land in my city I am legally prevented from standing on, lest I get arrested for trespassing. Nor am I allowed in without permission to gated communities, university buildings, etc.

The question is, what is the difference between a city government, and any other property owner? The governance structure is obviously different city governments run as a weird form of co-op, other property owners usually run as a partnership, joint stock corporation, or non-profit/board structure. But what practical or philosophical reason do you have for not allowing a certain type of property owner (aka cities) to exercise its right as a property owner, and set the rules about under what conditions people may live in that city?

Self-limiting

The owners of private property have to support their policies with their own resources. If they choose bad policies, they suffer the consequences of those policies and have direct feedback. If renting residents of a gated community begin leaving, or even signal to the owner of the community that they are considering ending their leases, the owner must consider changing policy to prevent a loss of revenue.

With public property, force is an option. The owner of public property can try to treat dissatisfaction by threatening to punish those who show the symptoms. Those who don't pay rent can be thrown in jail, those who complain can be outbid for media with stolen money, those who attempt to leave must satisfy the owner they have good reasons, and so on.

The eventual results may be the same, however the system of force is much slower to respond, and less elastic. When it breaks, there is a greater change between the state prior to breaking and the state subsequent.

Government's must support

Government's must support themselves with their own resources too. If a city abuses a resident or a company, the residents and companies will leave destroying the tax base.

Your argument does apply at the national level, where there is no external accountability.

But city and state governments cannot break their own charters nor their contracts with residents. They cannot just throw residents in jail out of spite. States and cities cannot produce bills of attainers or ex post facto laws - in other words, they cannot jail residents unless the resident knowingly violated an existing law or contract. The police force of a city government has little more discretion than the mall police or the security guards in a private community.

Free migration is a lot like

Free migration is a lot like free trade. A lot of people, being foolish, instinctively favor closing the border to trade and to migration. But free trade and free migration have good consequences for the local population. Adam Smith explained the good consequences of free trade. Free migration is much like free trade from an economic standpoint, since people who migrate are taking their labor across a border, which is much like transporting a good across a border.

I don't remember the bit about mandatory paternity testing and I see no link to it, but from the description given here it seems unnecessary and pointless.

We can't all live in societies that we would like. For example, I would like to live in a society in which every woman must allow me to f- her as many times as I like. Is that a strong argument for such a society? No? Then how is the following a strong argument:

But if we had a free choice between living in a society with mandatory paternity testing and one without it, both the author and myself would cheerfully choose the first.

So that's what you would choose, is it? Well, so what? I told you what I would choose. Now has either of us made even the tiniest hint of a fraction of an argument in favor of such things? No.

Do you think that gated

Do you think that gated communities should be banned? Should universities have to let in everyone? At what point is a community big enough that "libertarian" rules apply, and the community is morally or practically obligated to allow free migration? The city level? State level? National level?

Do you think that gated

Do you think that gated communities should be banned?

No.

Should universities have to let in everyone?

No.

At what point is a community big enough that "libertarian" rules apply, and the community is morally or practically obligated to allow free migration?

It's not a question of size, but of ownership.

The city level? State level? National level?

See above.

You have only challenged me on the question of obligation. I also mentioned consequences. In terms of consequences, a commercial enterprise such as a grocery store that does not allow essentially free entry to all peaceful, non-criminal people will in all likelihood suffer economically for it. A grocery store is small. And as we see, stores do indeed allow pretty much everybody in.

Private homes are another matter. Almost nobody allows just anybody into their own private home. That home can be quite large - a mansion. Evidently people judge that they benefit from the privacy of their home, but just as evidently people judge that they benefit from openness of their stores and malls.

"Bad"? To Whom? By What Standard?

Replace "poor" with "gay" and suddenly you're a 1950 conservative. Replace "poor" with "Irish" and suddenly you're an 1850 conservative.

An externality, to be actionable, must be objectively demonstrable. The fact that you find some people just vaguely icky is not objective.

You either believe that some things, like the right to emigrate and immigrate, are presumptively exempt from "democracy" (i.e., mob rule) or you don't. If you don't, then you're simply not a libertarian. All else is sophistry.

P.S.

If you believe in the authority of the mob to keep people out "just because," then you also, by definition, believe in the authority of the mob to kick people out -- "just because." Trying squaring that with libertarianism.

I don't understand this.

I don't understand this. It's perfectly consistent to have a constitution (which I mean in the general sense of an order for society rather than a document per se) that says that anyone who meets certain criteria, such as having been born there or whatever, are members of that society, but others are not.

not helpful

Less-limited immigration isn't "a bad policy no one wants" it's a GOOD policy very few people want. On the flip side, war, torture, the drug war, and the income tax are BAD policies that lots of people want. This doesn't tell us anything other than what people want isn't a good guide to policy. Nor is it useful to compare the world we actually live in, the one with coercive governments, to a hypothetical libertopia because in a voluntary organization "policy" doesn't mean the same thing as it does in the context of the state.

What have I been telling you all these years?

libertarian moral philosophy compels us to advocate for bad policies that nobody really wants.

See? My whims are the very definition of libertarian moral philosophy -- or at least its bad aspects. About time you came to your senses are realized that.

Ha!

I read it a second time before I caught on...

Brave post, Jacob

You're absolutely right, and any libertarian who spends some time talking to everyday people knows this. People with means go out of their way to live in nice neighborhoods with nice schools where the crime rate, teen pregnancy rate, and incarceration rate are low, and where the college acceptance rate is high.

This isn't simply an economic argument about division and labor and comparative advantage. It's a cultural argument about who we associate with and who our children associate with. Call me a snob, but I like being around smart, ambitious people who want to do big things and generally behave themselves within the confines of the law.

Yet libertarians don't blink an eye when espousing unrestricted immigration. It's a limosine liberal mentality: sure, let everyone in. I won't live near them, but I'll feel superior.

People with means go out of

People with means go out of their way to live in nice neighborhoods with nice schools where the crime rate, teen pregnancy rate, and incarceration rate are low, and where the college acceptance rate is high.

and therefore Libertarians are not in tune with the above because

many libertarians (example) hold that we have no moral choice but to pursue an open borders policy and let in any immigrant who wishes to come.

Look at a map. Look at the size of a neighborhood. Now look at the size of the entire territory of the United States. You are saying that there is a mismatch between people's desire to live in a nice neighborhood and libertarians' view that it is wrong to restrict migration into the entire territory between Mexico and Canada.

The United States is already heterogeneous and yet people manage to live in nice neighborhoods. So it's proven that living in a nice neighborhood does not require keeping the population of the entire United States homogeneous.

If you want to live in a gated community, you can do that. It does not require policing the border between the US and Mexico.

Yet libertarians don't blink an eye when espousing unrestricted immigration. It's a limosine liberal mentality: sure, let everyone in. I won't live near them, but I'll feel superior.

It is foolish to believe that you can do all your business with the people who you want to be associated with. So you want to be associated with the Kennedys. Fine. Are the Kennedys going to clean your pool? Fix your car and fill your gas tank? Are the Kennedys going to babysit your kids, clean your streets, sell you groceries, build your home? Oh yeah, Americans can do that, can't they? But Americans that you want to associate with? I mean, get serious: do you or don't you want to live in a nice neighborhood? If you do, then the other people in that nice neighborhood aren't going to be doing all the things you want somebody to do.

Face it: you benefit from doing business with people who you don't want to live in your nice neighborhood. That's fine - I'm not judging that. My point is that you benefit from proximity to people who you don't want in your neighborhood. So even if you only want to associate with the Kennedys and people like them, you also want a lot of other kinds of people not too far away from you, so that you can get your car fixed, your groceries bought, and so on.

So the fact that you don't want a bunch of low-skilled Mexicans right in your neighborhood driving down the property values does not mean you don't want them anywhere near you at all.

In a nutshell, even people who want to live in a homogeneous neighborhood filled with people in a similar class as themselves, do not (if they have any clue about economics) want to live an an entire homogeneous territory the size of the US territory. That being the case, then the supposed link you're trying to make between wanting to live in a nice neighborhood, and wanting to keep the Mexicans out of the US, does not hold.

In a nutshell, even people

In a nutshell, even people who want to live in a homogeneous neighborhood filled with people in a similar class as themselves, do not (if they have any clue about economics) want to live an an entire homogeneous territory the size of the US territory. That being the case, then the supposed link you're trying to make between wanting to live in a nice neighborhood, and wanting to keep the Mexicans out of the US, does not hold.

The Mexicans do not have to be on US territory in order for us to trade with them... I thought that was the point of free trade?

It's well-known that states with market-dominant minorities are much less socially stable than those with a market-dominant majority, so your assertion that we have no interest in keeping Mexicans out (at least until we figure out how to assimilate most of them into the market-dominant class) is obviously wrong. I don't know what kind of myopia it takes to think this sort of consideration is less important than saving a few cents on various goods, but I know I don't want any part in it.

The Mexicans do not have to

The Mexicans do not have to be on US territory in order for us to trade with them... I thought that was the point of free trade?

How is a Mexican supposed to clean your pool if the Mexican is 1000 miles away?

It's well-known that states with market-dominant minorities are much less socially stable than those with a market-dominant majority, so your assertion that we have no interest in keeping Mexicans out (at least until we figure out how to assimilate most of them into the market-dominant class) is obviously wrong.

The population of Mexico is one third that of the US, so even if they all crossed the border they would be a minority.

Meanwhile, while the assertion that you ascribe to me may or may not be my position, it is not made in the material that you quoted. If you are trying to answer the text that you quoted, then your answer is a straw man argument. I critiqued a certain argument. Rather than rebut that critique, you attacked what you believe to be my position, by a new argument, different from the argument from neighborhoods which I was replying to. As for your new argument...

I don't know what kind of myopia it takes to think this sort of consideration is less important than saving a few cents on various goods, but I know I don't want any part in it.

...all I see is your speculation that the supposed danger of social instability from the Mexicans outweighs the advantages of individual freedom. That convinces me of nothing, nor should it.

The population of Mexico is

The population of Mexico is one third that of the US, so even if they all crossed the border they would be a minority.

Somebody doesn't realize that Hispanics are ALREADY almost a majority in California elementary schools. And that's not even considering the question of how many potential immigrants there are from countries poorer than Mexico; the consequences of a true open borders policy extend far beyond just de facto annexation of Mexico.

Meanwhile, while the assertion that you ascribe to me may or may not be my position, it is not made in the material that you quoted. If you are trying to answer the text that you quoted, then your answer is a straw man argument. I critiqued a certain argument. Rather than rebut that critique, you attacked what you believe to be my position, by a new argument, different from the argument from neighborhoods which I was replying to.

Um, the point of your critique was suggesting that immigration policy enforcement did not serve the average citizen's self-interest; that those of us who thought otherwise were just too stupid or uncreative to calculate it correctly. At the very least, given the content of Jacob's original post, that interpretation was perfectly reasonable.

...all I see is your speculation that the supposed danger of social instability from the Mexicans outweighs the advantages of individual freedom.

So my own freedom of association does not count as individual freedom. I see how this works.

Look. I'm in favor of increasing others' freedom. (I am a member of TSI, after all.) But only if that doesn't come at a large involuntary cost to my own. Last time I checked, it was communists, not libertarians, that tried to brainwash people into acting strongly against their self-interest.

Somebody doesn't realize

Somebody doesn't realize that Hispanics are ALREADY almost a majority in California elementary schools.

That's not the same thing as what you were talking about earlier. For one thing, elementary schools are a tool of assimilation, and your worry was about unassimilated hispanics. These are kids, they are already in the US. Many were presumably born in the US. By the time they are adults, they should be well on their way toward assimilation, which is what you were worried about.

As it happens, I am hispanic, I attended elementary school in California, and I am fully assimilated into American culture, having been born in, and grown up in, the US.

And that's not even considering the question of how many potential immigrants there are from countries poorer than Mexico; the consequences of a true open borders policy extend far beyond just de facto annexation of Mexico.

Everybody from Mexico moving to the US in one unassimilated heap is an extreme hypothetical scenario. It is not what they would actually do. Look, we have open borders within the US. Take the poorest state in the US, and the richest state in the US. The people in the poorest states do not pick up en masse and move to the richest states. And the ones who do do not remain unassimilated - aside, of course, from the ones that have been sucked into the welfare state. But look, if that many hispanics really came to the US, the welfare state simply would not be able to take them all, so that path of permanent non-assimilation would not be open to them.

Um, the point of your critique was suggesting that immigration policy enforcement did not serve the average citizen's self-interest; that those of us who thought otherwise were just too stupid or uncreative to calculate it correctly. At the very least, given the content of Jacob's original post, that interpretation was perfectly reasonable.

I was addressing an argument made I believe by Jonathan Wilde. I don't recall if I had anything to say directly to Jacob's original post. Maybe I did. But the comment you were responding to was a comment by Jonathan. And while the broader topic may have been Jacob's post, my comment was a response to Jonathan's comment.

So my own freedom of association does not count as individual freedom. I see how this works.

You evidently don't know what freedom of association means. It does not mean that you get to keep Mexicans out of the country. It means that you are free personally to associate, or not associate, with Mexicans. You can have Mexicans as friends, or not. You can join a club that keeps Mexicans out if you want. You can refuse to work for Mexicans or to hire Mexicans. That is what freedom of association implies (though, of course, it is no longer practiced in the US; I, however, understand it). Freedom of association does not mean that you get to keep Mexicans off property that you do not own. If I want to hire a Mexican, if I bring a Mexican over from Mexico to clean my pool, freedom of association does not mean that you get to stop me from doing that.

I like being around smart,

I like being around smart, ambitious people who want to do big things

Fascinating.

Yet libertarians don't blink

Yet libertarians don't blink an eye when espousing unrestricted immigration. It's a limosine liberal mentality: sure, let everyone in. I won't live near them, but I'll feel superior.

Hmm. So does the fact that I do live in walking distance from one of the largest immigrant communities in my state, respect them, and want to continue living near them disprove your accusation of "limosine liberal"?

My own mother is an

My own mother is an immigrant. But two exceptions don't disprove his generalization, which was not after all just targeting you or me.

Big Cars Big Guns and no Kennedies

I came into Libertarianism through reading Heinlein vs. Rand or Rothbard. Heinlein liked to point out that liberty is a function of population density. Not much government in the Wild West. Quite a bit in today's blue states.

Yes, you can find exceptions. The French managed to import their big-government ways to their colonies. The English eventually settled on tyrannizing just their black slaves.

Gun laws, zoning laws, pollution laws, animal control laws, and more are driven by population. Frankly, I am not comfortable with private ownership of machine guns in a densely populated area. One nut with a machine gun can do a lot more damage in Manhattan than Kentucky. (Legal revolvers in Manhattan do make sense for me. They need more in private homes there...)

Mass immigration has led to many of the liberties lost that libertarians bemoan. It may have led to gaining a few they celebrate as well. High density and diversity do lead to tolerance of sexual and religious variety. (But importing millions of Moslems may just reverse that trend!)

----

Libertarians fail repeatedly because they look at the world from an ideal vantage vs. where we are now. A policy which may be a bad addition to the ideal may be a necessary Band-Aid given the current configuration.

We have a welfare state. Mass immigration of cheap laborers pulls down low skill labor, which increases the load on the welfare system. That's economic reality. It is foolish to advocate a policy that ignores the existence of the current welfare system! Libertarians lose because they advocate dumb policies.

Dubious connection between

Dubious connection between population and liberty. Dubious assessment of the net economic impact of immigration.

LeninOfLiberty, Should the

LeninOfLiberty,

Should the government also have the power to enforce population control on native-born citizens? If the problem is that there are too many people in the country, then a woman who reproduces above replacement rate (or perhaps even at or below it, if you think there are too many people already) is a menace to liberty in the same way as someone who sneaks people over the border.

You have successfully argued

You have successfully argued that a world in which all property is privately owned is incompatible with freedom of movement and association. Good work! Your error is in misidentifying the inference someone who values freedom would to draw.

Great post. I think I've

Great post.

I think I've asked this before (or at least I've meant to), but I'll throw it out again: Do Constant, Kip, Micha (pre-emptively...), Will, etc. really think that, say, a seastead doesn't have the right to restrict entry? I realize that's a little hypothetical, but Jacob brought it up, and I'm curious. If I have a boat in the ocean, I can't decide to let one person dock and join, but not another?

Or, to be more extreme, let's say some people set off on a rocket and make a nice, comfy O'Neill cylinder colony out of a dead asteroid. The people go there and set up a constitution as they see fit. Can they truly not control immigration there? That seems like an almost self-evidently ludicrous proposition.

But then what distinguishes "artificial" societies like seasteads or space colonies from extant countries in having this right (besides, of course, the fact they don't yet exist).

I presume a typical seastead

I presume a typical seastead would be privately owned. The owner (but not the seastead itself, being an inanimate hunk of metal) would therefore have the right to exclude anyone he or she chose, within the bounds of any contracts with people on the seastead. The community living on the seastead, being the people living there taken together, would not have a right to exclude anyone unless they had a contract with the owner saying they did.

Do Constant, Kip, Micha

Do Constant, Kip, Micha (pre-emptively...), Will, etc. really think that, say, a seastead doesn't have the right to restrict entry?

Of course not. Seasteads and any other private communities have the right to exclude, even if in exercising this right they are doing the morally wrong thing (not all morally wrong acts have enforceable punishments, apart from social sanction).

But then what distinguishes

But then what distinguishes "artificial" societies like seasteads or space colonies from extant countries in having this right (besides, of course, the fact they don't yet exist).

The propertarian in me has an easy response to this question: No existent government is justified in claiming jurisdiction over the territory it controls; i.e. no existing government is the rightful property owner of this territory. The consequentialist in me has a more difficult time with this question. Home owners associations can become just as large, unreasonable, and inefficient as many local governments.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I find a "thin" conception of libertarianism, which only recognizes the non-agression principle, to be insufficient. A large part of what creates and sustains a libertarian society is a sufficiently liberal culture and ethos.

Seems to me the main culprit

Seems to me the main culprit here is not ethos, but size, i.e. monopoly. The more competition there is for customers/neighbors/friends/whatever, the more reasonable people become. And the smaller the area of individual control, the smaller the negative consequences for others if an individual remains impervious to reason. Also true of organizational entities such as committees which have gone insane. Competition improves the ethos.

If there were a rightful

If there were a rightful owner of the land of the United States, he could place management over it identical to the government we have now, and suddenly it would be a "libertarian" society with all the same laws.

If all the atoms in a man's

If all the atoms in a man's body spontaneously reassembled themselves into a female mountain gorilla (merely very improbable), then that female mountain gorilla would be that male human.

In thinking about the world, if we were forced to put the improbable on an equal footing with the probable, then most of our knowledge would disappear, our knowledge being probabilistic. If you were not allowed to notice that spontaneously turning into a female mountain gorilla is improbable, then you would not be able to say very much at all about human males. And similarly for anything else. If your statements about men were required to cover the possibility that a man might spontaneously tun into a female mountain gorilla at any moment, then you could say virtually nothing about men. And similarly, if your statements about a libertarian/propertarian society were required to cover the possibility that a single person might become rightful owner of the US, then you could say virtually nothing about libertarianism.

The insistence that our concepts be able to cover all contingencies however remote is a mistake. The philosopher's focus on absurd improbabilities is a mistake.

The arrow of time itself is probabilistic. If you were forced ignore probability, then you could not distinguish the future from the past, let alone libertarianism from today's government.

If seasteads or other

If seasteads or other private government ideas take off, my example will be very pertinent.

No it will not. Seasteads

No it will not. Seasteads will be small. For your example of an entity owning the entire US to be pertinent, a single entity would have to be rightful owner of the entire ocean, or something on that order. It's the size of the territory that makes the difference. That's what potentially gets you the problems associated with unlibertarian government. And the bigger the area, the less probable that've single entity acquires it by legitimate means. A single seastead is like a mall.

But the collection of them

But the collection of them could be large, and I don't see why they can't express some collective preference. Including over who lives there.

Suppose (I like to think of this as a wildly optimistic yet vaguely plausible scenario), someone built a space elevator in the ocean (Brad Edwards had long advocated a floating platform, for a variety of reasons.)

Now, the owner of the elevator might very well choose to let people attach their boats around it. Workers to unload, for example, might live on a boat/seastead near it, having gotten permission to join and having agreed to live by the rules of that society. A thriving little community grows up around it.

Are they thus obligated to be an open access society, even if a moderate sized city has sprung up? I don't see it, sorry.

(I realize this is a little out there, although perhaps more concrete than the typical discussion of these things. And hey, I'm all for crazy schemes.)

But the collection of them

But the collection of them could be large, and I don't see why they can't express some collective preference. Including over who lives there.

You seem to be talking about a cartel. Cartels are inherently unstable. Which brings us back to probability.

Are they thus obligated to be an open access society, even if a moderate sized city has sprung up? I don't see it, sorry.

You keep projecting thoughts into other people's heads, and then answering those presumed thoughts. It's tiresome. "I don't see it, sorry." As if someone else had said something which you're disagreeing with. No, it was all you. You're the one who imagined the scenario and asked the question and assumed an answer and responded to the assumed answer.

I do not see why that is a

I do not see why that is a cartel. If a seastead is a "big boat", then it can exclude because that is legitimate property, but if it's two medium boats with a contract between them, that's a cartel and they can't?

Via the well established

Via the well established common law principle of adverse possession, the U.S. government is in fact the owner of the United States of America. If you do not believe in the principle Adverse Possession, then you need to come with a legal argument for why you shouldn't have to forfeit your land to the American Indians, and the residents of London forfeit their lands to the Welsh Britons, etc, etc.

Common law adverse

Common law adverse possession requires the disseisor to exclude the legitimate owners from using the property and actually act like the property owner by continuously occupying and using the property. On the vast majority of land in the US, the government has done no such thing.

As for Indians and Welshman: With or without the principle of adverse possession, claiming a particular piece of property claims usually require more proof than "Someone from my ethnic group once lived in the general area of the property."

A scheme of property rights

A scheme of property rights needs to justified. Roughly, the best scheme is the one that tends to leave the people affected by it best off compared to the alternatives. That includes people who won't ever be in a good position to live self-sufficiently on fenced-off lots. The optimal scheme may be a mix of private parcels with a strong right to exclude, common property with a weak right to exclude, and public property with almost no right to exclude. The fact that relatively successful societies tend to converge on the mixed model is a point strongly in its favor.

Do I think people ought to be able to fence off unclaimed parcels on the ocean frontier and then exclude others. Sure. Do I think people ought to be able to fence off parcels that seriously impede others' right to travel across the ocean. No. If you drop the silly all-or-nothingism, you'll see that this isn't really so hard. The claim that decent countries ought to do more to respect the rights of non-citizens to freely travel and associate just isn't paradoxical in any interesting way.

The final frontier....

We occasionally discuss, especially in the context of seasteading, the importance of "the right of exit" to libertarianism. To what extent does libertarianism depend on the existence of a frontier -- that is, a place where you have absolute discretion to go, where you can consume (space) without meaningfully impinging on the ability of others to do likewise?

Doubtless many people would have considered the idea of occupying all the land in the US's Western frontier a ludicrous. They would have thought the same about fishing all the whales, or consuming all the fossil fuel.

And does the frontier-like quality of the internet -- with its apparently limitless opportunities for web pages, etc. -- explain the greater prevalence of libertarians in that environment than in any other?

There's no paradox here.

The fact that your property rights do not extend beyond your property is hardly a paradox.

Preferences

"But if we had a free choice between living in a society with mandatory paternity testing and one without it, both the author and myself would cheerfully choose the first. Again, libertarian moral philosophy compels us to pollute our real, current world with bad policy, saving our good ideas for a future world of private governments."

No, morality prevents you from justly imposing your preferences on others.

If Obama and Hillary Clinton had the choice of living in a society with universal health care, I'm sure they would say they would cheerfully choose that society.

So how are you more justified than them in imposing your preferred policy on America? If it were just to impose your preferences it would be just to impose any preference of the collective, however totalitarian.

Treating America as collective private property leads to monstrous results - already.

"And then libertarians wonder why their message is so unpopular..."

No, I don't wonder any such thing; I understand perfectly well why a free lunch at the expense of others is more popular then paying for it oneself.

Robin Hanson is the only one

Robin Hanson is the only one I can recall endorsing mandatory paternity testing. I'm pretty sure he didn't back off, since he doesn't identify as a libertarian.

LeninOfLiberty, you and Heinlein also have a friend in Ed Glaeser. He's not quite a libertarian and so he doesn't frame the difference as one of more vs less liberty, but he clearly holds population density responsible for differences in government.

Freedom of movement has some similarities with freedom of trade, but also differences. People are not entirely the same as inanimate goods. I think the optimal policy is something like what they have in the Gulf States. I laid out my preferred policy at greater length in the comments to this post.

As a Stirnerite, I regard all this "justification" nonsense as a waste of time.

Do seasteaders come from Iowa? They don't seem to be

familiar with water.

Anyway, the problem with immigration is public welfare programs and the goofy amendment which grants full citizenship to anyone born in the US.

People are missing the

People are missing the point. This isn't about immigration, or paternity testing. It's about a policy P that is so beneficial that in a future anarcho-capitalist world it would become almost universal among burbclaves, seasteads, or what have you. But this policy requires some sort of collective action, it requires people to voluntarily allow their freedom to be constrained. We are allowed to pursue this policy P in our libertarian future. Libertarian ethics allows people to agree to collective constraints. However, in the present libertarian ethics restricts us from pursuing policy P even if it is ENORMOUSLY beneficial. To maintain our libertarian purity we must agree to drastically lower welfare in the present.

Of course, some libertarians argue that no such policy P exists, dodging the issue. I don't buy it.

A sequel post is forthcoming.

Same old wine under a new

Same old wine under a new label. Markets are not good at providing public goods. This is an old problem. Why keep relabeling old problems? Makes it necessary to keep re-fighting the same old battles. That's what your "Policy P" is. It's a policy that provides a public good. If it provided a private good then you would have individuals and small groups choosing Policy P for themselves and benefiting from Policy P. The only reason this would not happen, requiring national adoption, would be if Policy P had large-enough positive externalities that the private benefit to individuals of adopting Policy P would not induce individuals and small groups to adopt it.

For example, not letting Mexicans into the country because they'll supposedly go on welfare. The welfare problem is a public problem. If I stood at the border stopping Mexicans from coming in because I didn't want my tax money to go to them in welfare payments, I would also be benefiting all other taxpayers in the US. I would be personally capturing only a vastly small fraction of the benefit. So stopping them is (in that respect) a public good.

Once you've named the problem, you can google it, and you can benefit from the massive amount of discussion already in place about it. For example google public goods problem, and the second link has stuff by Bryan Caplan and David Friedman. In particular:

Objection #5: The public goods problem is unavoidable.

Perhaps most fundamentally: government is not a solution to the public goods problem, but rather the primary instance of the problem. If you create a government to solve your public goods problems, you merely create a new public goods problem: the public good of restraining and checking the government from abusing its power. "[I]t is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government, that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey," wrote Thomas Paine; but what material incentive is there for individuals to help develop a vigilant national character? After all, surely it is a rare individual who appreciably affects the national culture during his or her lifetime.

To rely upon democracy as a counter-balance simply assumes away the public goods problem. After all, intelligent, informed voting is a public good; everyone benefits if the electorate reaches wise political judgments, but there is no personal, material incentive to "invest" in political information, since the same result will (almost certainly) happen whether you inform yourself or not. It should be no surprise that people know vastly more about their jobs than about their government. Many economists seem to be aware of this difficulty; in particular, public choice theory in economics emphasizes the externalities inherent in government action. But a double standard persists: while non-governmental externalities must be corrected by the state, we simply have to quietly endure the externalities inherent in political process.

And so on. Real-world example: our government is attacking the supposed public goods problem of keeping 9/11 from happening again. And their effort is the TSA. Anyone notice any problems with the TSA? The TSA is itself a massive public goods problem. I would benefit if I didn't have to deal with the TSA, but the only way for me to achieve that outcome would be for me to abolish the TSA, but that would simultaneously help all other passengers who are also hassled by the TSA. Customs is another aspect of this same problem. Because of 9/11, it is much more inconvenient now for foreigners to visit the country. This is causing untold harm to our economy. Fixing that problem is a public goods problem because to fix it for my personal business contacts is simultaneously to fix it for everyone else (assuming the fix isn't to bribe the customs official - that fix would be a private good).

You're right - I'm thinking

You're right - I'm thinking myself far too clever.

But certainly it is possible to fix public good problem A by introducing public good problem B, where B is much less costly than A. The argument that "you just introduce another public good problem!" is far too simplistic, though it reminds me of many arguments for policies that I have heard.

Magnitudes matter.

Great post, and a lot of

Great post, and a lot of retarded comments.

I agree with Jacob; a society (say, on a seastead) that I would choose to associate with, would have rules restricting the future expansion of association. Id probably prefer these rules to be very elitist. And I dont see any argument, moral or otherwise, as to why that would be wrong.

The thing with an entity like the USG, or any government, is that its not a consentual entity, and thus I would argue, not a legitimate entity. Ofcource, the world doesnt care a whole lot what I consider legitimate, but if you ask me what such a illegitimate entity should do, you are asking the wrong person. Youre not going to get a sensible answer from anyone for that matter, because its a contradiction waiting to happen. Whichever policy you choose, a large number of people are bound to righteously feel ripped off, because it isnt the policy they would have preferred, yet it is imposed on them anyway.