A little over a year ago, I felt compelled to write a blog post about national borders. As that discussion is a perennial subject for every ideology to fight over, I felt I had plenty of time to double-check my understanding of the matter before posting and still seem relevant. Boy, was I surprised.
This was an issue that everyone seemed to agree to disagree on, relegating the discussion to election years only, during which the nation would compare and contrast open borders with slightly-less-open borders. Of course no-one would question the premise of the existence of borders being necessary. Anyway, out of nowhere, a wealthy, aggressive alpha male appeared in this election cycle, running on a platform that amounts to, “We need an almost-closed border, build a wall.” Donald Trump managed to take an issue most anarchists thought they agreed on and turn it into an issue so divisive in anarchist circles that the word “schism” has been thrown around… which is rare in a community built on debate and philosophical adversity.
I have heard and read a great many arguments before this hidden powder keg was lit, and probably twice as many since then. Not surprisingly, my position has remained largely unchanged in all this mess. That’s not to say the ideas I post here are entirely unchanging and correct, but it does reflect my confidence that my position is consistent with the principles outlined on this blog and the principles of anarchism.
To be clear, (because this somehow got confusing in recent history), I am discussing national borders. I’m discussing the cartographical phenomena of lines drawn on a map delineating “state A” and “state B”, and the subsequent expectation that a matching line be drawn in the sand and walls and enforcers be stationed along that line. This is a different phenomena entirely from what could be called “property lines” or some other defined boundary of private property. That being said, what is the nature of national borders?
A national border is largely comparable to a dam. A government subsidizes the creation of an infrastructure to manage the flow of resources from one place to another. In the case of a dam, it’s typically the flow of water (carrying fish, generating electricity, being used for agriculture, etc.) from uphill to downhill regions. Some times, things flow uphill, such as fish, but it’s usually a downhill function. In the case of borders, it is typically the flow of individuals (carrying material goods, generating revenue, performing labor, etc.) being regulated. Different dams regulate differently and with different goals, just like borders.
The consistent elements among all borders are that they are subsidized by the state, they are considered to be state/”public” property, they are the edge of (certain types) of jurisdiction and they can be open (to varying degrees) or closed. While there could be variations not explicitly addressed by this approach, I feel addressing the US or EU border as a reasonable microcosmic example of these commonalities. For example, the US border exists, in any actionable sense, because the ICE and law enforcement say so. In theory, the ICE and El Paso cops can’t arrest me for selling Anarchapulco Gold in Chihuahua, but they totally can if I happen to do so on the US side of that cartographical line.
These enforcers are funded by a mixture of taxation and Federal Reserve loans (using our descendants as collateral), which means this activity is endorsed and encouraged by the state, AKA subsidized. The (almost) reasonable comparison of national borders to private property lines is useful at this point. Regardless of the moniker (“public land”, “open land”, “federal land”, “the commons”), the actionable reality is such that “public land” is the ill-gotten property of the state, and said state enjoys all of the rights that come with property. In the same way I could subsidize my friend’s bad relationship choices by allowing him to sleep on my couch when he gets kicked out, the state can subsidize the bad economic and social policies of neighboring peoples by allowing them to stay on “public land” and take advantage of the welfare beyond that border. Conversely, a state can be selective or prohibitive with regards to such subsidization. It can pick and choose who is allowed in or out or simply close the border.
History has borne out the shortcomings of open, semi-open, and closed border policies alike. The Iron Curtain, Berlin Wall, and DMZ of Korea demonstrate the economic fallout inherent in isolationism at scale as well as how difficult it is to enforce a closed border. The litany of empires that have come and gone, for the most part, fell victim to the failures of a semi-open border policy; productive citizens fleeing the slavery of the state, welfare leeches and foreign enemies getting in, all coupled with the perpetual cost and externalities of enforcing the border. The significantly more rare examples of open borders present no less dire a prognosis; one need look no further than the ongoing implosion of socialist Europe to get an idea of what open borders look like.
Given the state of political and philosophical discourse in the current election cycle and the ongoing invasion of Europe, I would be remiss in not addressing Trump and his wall., I am against Trump no less than I am any of the criminals vying for the throne of Empire this year. That said, as long as anti-discrimination laws, welfare statism, and elections exist, the violence of the state and tax dollars would do less harm constructing an enforcing a border wall and an almost-closed border policy than subsidizing the importation of individuals with goals contrary to that of successful human enterprise, which is the alternative. Trump’s wall will become the biggest tombstone on the largest mass grave in human history, and that’s the least damage that can be done with the border of Empire, at this point. Terrifying.
I managed to make it halfway through a post being charitable to the concepts of statism… I think that’s a new record. Now, lets get some anarchism up in here. Borders are bullshit. As I stated above, history dictates that borders don’t work. Borders and states are as close to synonyms as two words can get without actually being synonyms. One of the few truths uttered in the presidential debates this last year is, “There is no state without borders.”
“But… if you want Trump to build a wall, how can you want to get rid of borders?” This is a fair question. In order to answer it, I have to explore a basic economic question first. Migration, like all of human action, is a response to market signals; so, what signals would current migrants be responding to? Not jobs, America currently suffers from the largest labor surplus in history. Not for security, America has both the highest incarceration rate and largest prison population in human history. Not for quality mates, America has an extraordinary rate of genetic and self-inflicted diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression… and that doesn’t include the growing population of beta males and feminazis. The only answer that holds water is the innumerable forms of state subsidization of migration.
If I were to push the “end the state” button today, immigration would dry up instantly. Even if it didn’t, though, the damage that could have been caused by said migration would not occur. Without a state apparatus to steal from producers of wealth and subsidize their inferiors, a state apparatus of wielding violence against one’s betters, a state apparatus preventing intelligent and voluntary interactions, and whatever other state functions immigrants are currently responding to, migrants would be faced with the same challenges as everyone else: get a job or starve, don’t initiative violence or you will get killed, respect private property or you’re gonna have a bad time.
“But what about ISIS? Without a wall…” This is me, being totally unafraid of ISIS. They are too busy doing statism on the opposite side of the world, murdering peaceful people, stealing, raping, you know, the same things that the government does over here. If, somehow, ISIS manages to conquer the Middle East, fend off a Russian invasion, not provoke Israel into stepping up it’s genocidal agenda, get through Europe, and proceed to eliminate every privately-managed American shipping company’s navy (which would totally be a thing once the government is eliminated, can’t let those destroyer ships go to waste), they would be treated the same way every home-grown criminal would be. Unless, by “ISIS”, you mean “muslims”. If that’s what you mean, there’s a much more peaceful and cost-effective solution, one which has been illegal for quite some time: private property rights.
If you’re in my house or place of business, you follow my rules or get kicked out. Most of those rules would likely be intuitive: no violating the NAP and adhere to posted social norms (‘no shirt, no shoes, no service”, “no smoking”, etc.) Some businesses may even cater to outliers: fight clubs, smoker-friendly restaurants, nudist beaches, etc. Depending on where you live in LibPar, one such social norm may be “No Muslims allowed”. Someone is far less likely to jump on a bus, shout “allahu akbar” and explode if the entire town is private property and all private property owners have a “no looking like you are wearing a suicide vest” rule.
“But… RACISM!” So? I’m not sure what you are concerned about. If the individuals being discriminated against are equal or greater than others with regards to ability to provide value to others, those that do not discriminate will out-perform those who do. This will send a market signal deterring discrimination. Conversely, if the individuals being discriminated against are inferior in that regard, such discrimination is warranted and those who discriminate will out-perform those that don’t. To argue against this position is to tacitly admit that one believes a particular demographic is, in fact, inferior; in other words, to argue against this position is to be racist.
One issue which was indirectly addressed in this post but warrants explicit mention is the myth of “right to travel” or “freedom of movement”. No matter how one formulates such a concept, it is a “positive right” which, as readers of my book or attendees of Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom will know, can’t possibly exist. I have as much “right to travel” as I do a “right to functioning kidneys”. If, for whatever reason, my kidneys fail, no one has an obligation to give me theirs and I cannot be justified in stealing them. The same goes for right of travel; my ability to do whatever I want ends where your property begins. If for whatever reason, I am not welcome on your property, I have no right to travel into your place of business, your home, or your butthole without invitation.
TL;DR: The arbitrary lines drawn on a map by which criminal gangs determine jurisdiction, AKA national borders, are as unnecessary and misanthropic as the gangs themselves. Every vaguely legitimate function of national borders are better accomplished by simply reinstating private property rights and letting nature take its course.