Image credit. Reading Hoppe's below paper on the correct anarcho-capitalist approach to immigration leaves me with a sense of duplicity, as if the author was alternately swimming in two different rivers (of explanation), one of which being particularly muddy. At the bottom of the post, find a short summary of my findings.
In his paper "The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration," Hans-Hermann Hoppe promises to
demonstrate that free trade and restricted immigration are not only perfectly consistent but even mutually reinforcing policies. (p. 221)
In his view, free trade and free immigration are not analogous, since
goods and services require a prior voluntary invitation under free trade, while
... free in conjunction with immigration does not mean immigration by invitation of individual households and firms, but unwanted invasion or forced integration ... (p. 226)
... in advocating free trade and restricted immigration, one follows the same principle: requiring an invitation for people as for goods and services. (p. 227)
... population movements, unlike product shipments, are not per se mutually beneficial events because they are not always—necessarily and invariably—the result of an agreement between a specific receiver and sender.
There can be shipments (immigrants) without willing domestic recipients. In this case, immigrants are foreign invaders, and immigration represents an act of invasion. Surely, a government’s basic protective function includes the prevention of foreign invasions and the expulsion of foreign invaders. Just as surely then, in order to do so and subject immigrants to the same requirement as imports (of having been invited by domestic residents), this government cannot rightfully allow the kind of free immigration advocated by most free traders. (p. 227)
It is interesting that Hoppe seems to be adopting a minarchist rather than an anarcho-capitalist position in that he assigns government "a basic protective function" and the ability to act "rightfully, and identifies
its primary function as protector of its citizens and their domestic property." (pp.227/228)
Be it as it may, Hoppe insists:
The guiding principle of a high-wage-area country’s immigration policy follows from the insight that immigration, to be free in the same sense as trade is free, must be invited immigration. (p. 228)
Next, Hoppe seems to get into a bit of a muddle. He refers to the "anarcho-capitalist model" to make the central point of his preferred immigration policy, putting it like this:
As every product movement reflects an underlying agreement between sender and receiver, so all movements of immigrants into and within an anarcho-capitalist society are the result of an agreement between the immigrant and one or a series of receiving domestic property owners. (p. 229)
But then he adds:
... if for realism’s sake the existence of a government and of “public” (in addition to private) goods and property is assumed—it [his anarcho-capitalist (ac) model, G.T.] brings into clear relief what a government’s immigration policy would have to be ... (p.229)
Let me try to summarise: the ac-solution may be unrealistic, concedes Hoppe, while in a world that is more realistic because it contains the institution of government, the latter ought to pursue a policy that is unrealistic under ideal conditions, which are of the ac-type. I feel a little confused.
Hoppe continues to argue that any one who intends to sojourn in a free country must be invited to do so by a property owner with citizen status, who assumes responsibility for the visitor much as a parent or grown up does for a a minor.
In addition, an invitee under such tutelage may eventually become a citizen of the country by acquiring property. This being a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one, as
citizenship may require that the sale of residential property to foreigners be ratified by a majority of or even all directly affected local property owners. (p.233)
A remarkable option as it embraces collective decision-making with the attendant politics and thus admits lots of inroads into the private property regime which otherwise Hoppe portrays as unaffected by arrangements of a non-trading variety.
In fact, Hoppe is characteristically ambiguous in this paper: he has doubts as to the feasibility of his policy under anarcho-capitalist auspices, yet demands its realisation by the very state whose total denunciation is the main tenet of anarcho-capitalism. He admits forms of collective deliberation and political (as opposed to market-based) decision-making (for the purpose of determining entitlement to sojourning and naturalisation) that anarcho-capitalism does not normally condone.
At the same time, in a spirit of affirmation, he employs a substantially truncated notion of property (see below), one that is cleansed of the social concessions and provisos that surround private property in real life, contrasting it against conditions of immigration - disliked by him - that are not based on bilateral deals between private citizen and immigrant. However, no allowance is made as to the fact that making visits by and naturalisation of foreigners depend on individual initiative and judgement (by an established citizen) alone is highly inefficient - and contradicts his fortuitously incongrous admission of collective arbitration (see last quote above).
Now, would I want to visit such a country or conduct business with its citizens? Not unless I had pressing grounds. The country in question seems to expose itself to a considerable competitive disadvantage.
Who decides what kind of property and how much of it one needs to acquire so as to qualify for citizenship? Who is supposed to ratify the Hoppean rules for visitors and new citizens. Who is assigned the duty of policing these rules? How do we deal with citizen-property owners, who deviate from the rules? What will happen in the absence of collective means of legislating and policing a society free from "forced integration and foreign invaders." (p. 231) We encounter the recurrent petitio principii - pretending to have explained that which is still to be explained - of anarchism: who is to decide what is legitimate aggression and what is not?
No answers. Instead, Hoppe gives us a glimpse of the politico-bureaucratic door that is about to be opened in the face of some of the property-acquisition criteria that he surprisingly concedes in the paper (see more in the next paragraph but one).
There is something of a furtive hedge about Hoppe's contradictoriness: on the one hand, he argues on the basis of his radically one-sided idea of anarcho-capitalist private property,
... all land is privately owned, including all streets, rivers, airports, harbors, etc. ( p.229)
On the other hand, at a later juncture, he softens these strict conditions to leave conditionality of ownership essentially indeterminate,
... the owner is permitted to do with his property whatever he pleases as long as he does not physically damage the property of others. With respect to other territories, the property title may be more or less restricted. As is currently the case in some developments, the owner may be bound by contractual limitations on what he can do with his property (restrictive covenants, voluntary zoning), which might include residential rather than commercial use, no buildings more than four stories high, no sale or rent to unmarried couples, smokers, or Germans, for instance. ( p. 228)
In general, it seems to me that much of the crankiness and rickety feel of his proposal hinges on an exceedingly naive conception of what property is. Hoppe fails to take cognizance of how in a free society property rights are being dynamically constituted and constantly reconstituted in a complex chain of trade-offs.
Even within Hoppe's framework, one wonders how a society might evolve that is so radically suppressed by immigration policies that it turns grown up guests into children and makes every invitor haplessly dependent on any random citizen for the free movement of her guest and ultimately herself.
What if I am surrounded for hundreds of miles by neighbours that do not want my guest to get to my place? What invitation for blackmail and all sorts of neighbourly aggravation! Heaven, am I grateful to be living in a country, where government ensures free movement for all of us, including foreigners! In this regard, to me at least, Hoppe involuntarily demonstrates a chief reason for the popularity of the state: it has the ability (not always exercised) to liberate us from individual whims and arbitrariness.
By contrast, Hoppe cheers the immobilisation of society by his vision of ever more complete privatisation. Hurrah, says he:
The immigrant’s freedom of movement would be severely restricted by the extent of private property, and private land ownership in particular. (p.230)
Alas - horror of horrors:
Yet, by proceeding on public roads, or with public means of transportation, and in staying on public land and in public parks and buildings, an immigrant can potentially cross every domestic resident’s path, even move into anyone’s immediate neighborhood and practically land on his very doorsteps. The smaller the quantity of public property, the less acute the problem will be. But as long as there exists any public property, it cannot be entirely escaped. (p. 230)
Hoppe is entirely focussed on convincing himself that he is being consistent in his argument, showing little interest in facing the reality that surrounds us.
In the real world, private property is used and exchanged to enhance our options for a life of peaceful coexistence, mutual trust, prospects of cooperation and mobility. In real life, private property is a relational phenomenon, a tool for trade-offs that effect constant changes in the restrictions and micro-freedoms that a bundle of property rights contains.
See also my discussion of relational versus monadic law in my critique of Rothbard's justification of anarcho-capitalism: The Elementary Errors of Anarchism (2/2)
In defining the bundles of property right that we trade with one another we include new negotiated, won or legislated unfreedoms and freedoms, asymmetric positions in coercive relationships. We tie our bundles of property rights to communal rights and obligations because such blending brings about advantages otherwise not to be had.
In looking at the micro-structure of free trade, following the route of a traded good, we are confronted with innumerable arrangements that restrict absolute property rights and encompass social rules, collective rulings and regulations. If somehow magically, we were prevented from encroaching on, or better: moulding, absolute property rights, we would be unable to have an order evolve that gives us the flexibility underlying free trade.
In the real world, we make sure that our rights are not absolute but capable of appropriate moulding so as to better play the game of mutual adjustment, give and take. By contrast, Hoppe takes away from us the right to political freedom and the freedom of association by which we exercise our political freedom, leavening each one alone to fend for herself, and burden herself with tasks that are far more efficiently done if public bodies are tasked with the respective chores.
Ironically, Hoppe with his vision of a re-feudalised landscape of manor-like private realms provides a self-defeating, tell-tale contrast to the freer post-feudal society in which today we choose rules, which force us in some measure to obey common restrictions, but ultimately enhance the range of personal, commercial, and political trades available to us.
Hoppe, who tries to make property the fulcrum of his overriding ambition to arrive at a consistent theory of freedom, fails resoundingly because he does not understand how property works in a free society. The regime of property in a free society is not built by looking in the rear mirror trying to ensure that every new move is consistent with a rigid set of initial (anarcho-capitalist) premisses.
True, in characterising free trade, it is correct to state that it is partly
the result of an agreement between a specific receiver and sender,
but to think that this observation exhausts the conditions of free trade is hair-raisingly naive.
Of course, certain forms of bilateral agreement are vitally important in bringing about free trade, but for it to occur with enduring success there is equally involved a vast array of social and collective and politically shaped conditions that permeate and go beyond the discretion of two parties.
In sum: Hoppe is neither here nor there. It remains unclear how two mutually exclusive positions taken in the paper are supposed to be wielded together in a logically satisfactory manner: one part of his argument is based on a radical individualism much in the spirit of anarcho-capitalism, whereby immigration is a private matter to be decided by each citizen on her own.
On the other hand, Hoppe admits forms of collective deliberation and decision-making designed to (a) qualify private ownership in indeterminate ways and (b) define and ratify the conditions of naturalisation. To the extent that Hoppe would insist on the first part, it must be pointed out that he ignores both
(a) vital conditions of freedom - in particular, political freedom, freedom of association and freedom of movement - and
(b) the nature, purpose, and real life practice of private property in a free society.
Overall, his results are inconclusive; a clear position is not to be detected.
See also What Does Liberty Matter?, The Great Fiction (1/3), The Great Fiction (2/3), The Great Fiction (3/3), The Universal Grin - A Farewell to Alms, Immigration and Freedom (6/10) - Political Scarcity and the Indeterminacy of Freedom.