Friday, October 05, 2007

Anti-Immigrant Jackboots

The sounds of anti-immigrant jackboots can be heard in different parts of the land. In Long Island, immigration cops kick in doors and arrest 186 Hispanics. Ostensibly to look for gang members, the raids also nabbed American citizens who were forced to defend the authenticity of their citizenship papers. One woman, who is a legal resident, said that "having people burst into her home and breaking doors reminded her of when she lived in El Salvador. 'There, it's the Death Squads and here it's immigration', she said."

Earlier this year, immigration cops arrested and deported 1,297 workers at meat processing plants who were here illegally.

In Los Angeles, again partially to nab gang members, 1,327 were arrested in the largest raids of its kind, and 600 of them have already been deported.

Workers and long-term residents are being lumped in with gang members, herded off to jail, and imprisoned while they await deportation.

When a state rounds up people in mass sweeps, the innocent and "guilty" alike, it has moved closer to statism. I am not Hispanic, so the day when I have to defend my right to be here to a skeptical, orders-following immigration cop who questions the authenticity of the documents I am compelled to show him, is further away. But how much further? And what will it be like to live in a country where fellow residents, Hispanic or not, are rounded up in raids to be processed for deportation, or simply humiliated for living here?

The rights of immigrants to live in this country is parcel of the individual human right to life that all of us possesses, whether we are immigrants ourselves or merely the son or daughter or descendant further removed of immigrants. When we violate the rights of immigrants to live here peaceably who have committed no crimes other than to violate the unjust laws against immigration, we are cutting away at the right to be left alone that all of us possesses. We are empowering the state to become ever more the police state.

Respecting an immigrant's right to live here is respecting our own right to life.

65 comments:

Myrhaf said...

Sadly, this thuggery delights both the right and the left (the union types). When you get a bi-partisan agreement on a statist program, there is no hope. And the ones who suffer are people who have traveled thousands of miles to work.

Galileo Blogs said...

Yes, on all points.

As an aside, my experience with Hispanic immigrants in particular, here in New York, has always been positive. Recently, we had some difficult and dangerous renovation work done on the apartment building I live in, and the immigrant workers who did it, did so beautifully.

A century ago, people would hang signs on their establishments saying, "No dogs nor Irish allowed." The descendants of those same Irish, or Italians or Germans or what-not, want to change private racism into universal racism, and keep out those damn Mexicans or Africans or [insert name of hated ethnic group] as a matter of law.

The anti-immigrationists are hypocrites, as everyone in America is descended from an immigrant, and they are often racists. Next time they need something that an immigrant would provide them, I hope no one is there to do so.

Inspector said...

Galileo,

I'm not sure I agree with your phrasing that people have a right to live here. Of course, it is irrational to restrict immigration in the way that our government does, but this does not violate anyone's rights and people do not have a right to jump our border or pretend fraudulently to be citizens. Nations and national boundaries are legitimate concepts.

As per our discussion from a while back:

A friend of mine put it this way: "A nation (at least a just nation) is established as an agreement between its citizens for the mutual enforcement of their rights. This obligation cannot be extended to an external party without their consent any more than I may declare myself a member of a private club without the permission of the members."

And since the obligation of protection must extend to everyone within the borders, then even being allowed in at all is extending a "guest membership" of sorts. Just as nobody has a right to a guest pass into a private club, so too here. A nation really is a private club.


There can be no such thing as a right to membership, or even entrance, into a private club. And that's not even getting into the legitimacy of security issues and the need to screen people who come and go. None of this makes the restrictions today rational, (they are not) but we do have the right to do so.

Galileo Blogs said...

The point you raise is one I have not completely resolved. One way to look at it is that restricting immigration, except for reasons of security, restricts the rights of domestic residents who want to freely associate with that person here.

Restricting immigration in that case violates my right to freely associate with that person as a worker, friend, spouse, or in any other capacity.

What would be a legitimate basis to forbid entry to an immigrant other than security?

Inspector said...

It's entirely a question of security, that is to say broadly: national sovereignty. Which is to say that a legitimate nation - i.e. one based on the protection of individual rights (e.g. a Capitalist one) has a right to establish borders. That anyone crossing said border does so by permission and not by right.

This is in one sense a function of security but in another sense the whole existence of a nation per se. To say that one is establishing a nation is to say that one is establishing not only an agency for the protection of the rights - but a monopoly on doing so in a given geographic area.

To establish a government is to establish a sovereignty over a given geographic area. It is to say that it is the sovereignty of this government, which of course represents its citizens.

People who are not citizens of that government do not simply have a right to enter that sovereignty - they do so by permission.

Now, you bring up a decent point: if a citizen extends permission by inviting someone in, does the government have a right to deny this? I would say no, unless it could provide a security reason for it. But of course this means that by default someone would have to pass various security checks and so forth and this would be legitimate, so long as they are themselves rational.

In the end effect this doesn't interfere with most of what you are saying, but it is an important distinction nonetheless. To name just one effect, this shifts the burden of proof away from the government to prove that you shouldn't be here - as you have no natural right to enter what is, in effect, a private club. You have to be invited and you proceed by permission; that is, unless and until you become a citizen. Which is something else that nobody has a right to do. (which isn't to say that the current system is rational - it certainly is not!)

Galileo Blogs said...

The private club analogy is incomplete in an important respect. A private club has the right to reject membership to others on any basis whatsoever, including irrational ones. They can be racist, and exclude Jews or blacks. They can exclude people on the basis of their views on any particular issue. They have full freedom and carte blanche to admit anyone or no one as they please.

The analogy of the private club falls short when describing a government. Can a government act irrationally, ever? Imagine if the President, as the executive ultimately in charge of the immigration bureau, decides that he does not want to admit Jews into the country. He doesn't want them in his club. Does he have the right to do so? Of course not.

What is the relevant principle here? Whose rights is the President obligated to protect? He is obligated to protect the rights of the citizens and residents of the United States. However, what if the President could have free rein to harm non-Americans or deny them immigration on any basis whatsoever, including irrational ones? If it were okay for the President to do that to foreigners, under what principle do we insist that he behave rationally toward domestic U.S. residents? Could we realistically limit the President’s irrationality to foreigners and be sure he will not exercise his irrational whims against Americans?

Also, imagine what such behavior toward foreigners will do for Americans living abroad. Why should any foreign government protect Americans who live in their countries if we act irrationally toward those who immigrate here or reside here? Not violating the rights of anyone, domestic or foreign, really is a universal principle and can never be violated by our government or anyone else.

I would contend that it is an extension of the protection of our individual rights that our government is compelled to never act unjustly toward anyone anywhere in the world, at any time. How could the unjust ever be justified?

Now, nothing I have said here obviates against our government fully defending Americans against foreign threats. This may include restricting immigration from a hostile country, or a country with which we are at war. It would also include the activities by agencies such as the CIA, which are usually justifiable in the name of national defense even if foreign nationals are harmed (the principle that the harm to those nationals is the fault of the foreign enemy who necessitated such actions applies).

All of this gets back to my basic question: Is there a basis other than security to keep out foreigners? I can't think of any.

Finally, citizenship is another matter entirely. I do think America has the right to determine that citizens will fully comport with American values. We already weakly work in that direction by requiring that applicants for citizenship pass a test of their knowledge of American history and civics.

***

On a separate, but related point, I think that much of the animus against immigration stems from simple fear of foreigners. That fear is fear of foreign cultures and values, and also fear that foreign immigration will somehow hurt America economically.

On the first point, the only foreign culture that represents a genuine threat would be Islam. America has good military reasons to restrict in some manner the immigration of Muslims, especially those from hostile countries.

Otherwise, there are no threats from foreign immigrants. The only real threat we have in this country is a philosophically muddled culture. In ages past, America had abundant immigrants from heavily religious countries, for example Italy, Ireland or the Eastern European countries. Those immigrants (who themselves were individualist to a significant degree by virtue that they had the courage to leave their countries in search of a better life) were subsumed into America's culture of individualist, capitalist self-reliance. These same people became inventors, industrialists, workers, and "good Americans" in every respect. That happened because the dominant values of America’s culture were those values, and the immigrants adopted them.

Today we have a large welfare system, increasing religious mysticism, cultural relativism and lots of other philosophical maladies. In that environment, is it any wonder that a Muslim who comes here sticks to his irrational views, hunkers down, and becomes a threat to America?

Restricting immigration in a broad-based manner will not cure the philosophical ills of America. The cure must come from within, by the adoption of better ideas. It frightens me to hear of jackbooted immigration officials rounding up long-term residents here. Extending that kind of authority to a philosophically direction-less government will be a much greater threat to Americans than simply letting in all comers.

If we restrict immigration, it should only be for clear-cut objective threats. Even that presupposes our government properly identifying our foreign enemies. For example, do we restrict all Saudis, for all time? Even those Saudi oil officials from whom we buy oil, for example? If we clearly defined our enemy, we could ban all Iranian immigrants, for example, for the time it takes to defeat Iran in whatever military action we take. That would probably be for a few months, at most, if we fought the war properly.

As for the economic argument against immigrants, it has been refuted at length, such as by Harry Binswanger on HBL list. I agree with his view. Immigrants are a net positive economically. We benefit from trading with them. Our economy becomes wealthier through an enhanced division of labor. Even when we account for foreigners using welfare, I would contend that we still benefit economically from foreigners residing here. We could certainly eliminate all welfare, or even ban non-citizens from accepting welfare. That would solve that problem. Compounding an injustice (welfare) with another injustice (banning immigration) does not solve that problem.

Finally, to directly address your point, I agree that immigrants enter by permission, and that guarding our borders is an essential function of a sovereign government. Nothing I have said here contradicts that idea. However, there is no good reason to deny that permission, except for reasons of national security.

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Inspector said...

"Finally, to directly address your point, I agree that immigrants enter by permission, and that guarding our borders is an essential function of a sovereign government. Nothing I have said here contradicts that idea. However, there is no good reason to deny that permission, except for reasons of national security."

Only one thing you said contradicts that idea: the statement that immigrants have a "right" to live here. This is false: when they are here, living or visiting, it is by permission and not by right. The idea of whether it is rational or not to extend that permission is not something I disagree with you on, nor is the question of whether a government ought to act irrationally, ever. The question of when it is or is not in the rational self-interest of people or governments to restrict immigration, however, is not the same question as whether foreigners ought to have a political right to enter any country at will.

I disagree that the private club analogy falls short. Private clubs, also, might act irrationally with membership policies and not represent their members' interests perfectly but at the same time would not necessarily be violating anyone's rights.

While there are a number of immigration policies that might be irrational, few of them actually violate anyone's rights.

Just as the citizen delegates his right to self-defense to the government, so too does this include the question of what national security requires in terms of who crosses the borders. One citizen's invitation would not override, say, a general security policy against all persons from Iran - and the government would not be under a burden of proof to show that this particular person was a threat if it determined that security and enforcement limitations necessitated excluding all Iranians. Just as we do not go around as vigilantes acting as judge, jury, and executioner, so too do we not have unlimited power to determine what is or is not in the best security interests of the country. What I mean is that questions of national security should be under objective control of the state, just like the law. I cannot simply demand that Bush justify a military action to me - what I can do is not vote for him. This is part of what it means to delegate certain things to the government.

As such, it is entirely plausible that the state would decide that the national and criminal security of a nation would be best served by placing the burden of proof on the foreigners to show that they are not criminals and have never committed crimes. In the case of lawless countries of origin, or ones that are hostile or highly corrupt - such that it would be nigh-impossible for a given would-be immigrant to prove this, he might simply be out of luck. But he would have no right to demand entry.

So there are two elements at work here:

1) Permission, which is the first thing which must be extended.

2) National security, which necessitates the delegation of the final decision on #1 to the state.

Those are my thoughts on the matter, anyhow.

Galileo Blogs said...

Were the rights violated of Japanese-Americans during World War II when they were rounded up, put in camps, and in many cases had their property confiscated?

Does an illegal Mexican immigrant, who has abided by all laws (other than the immigration law) and lived a peaceful, hard-working life in this country, have his rights violated if he is rounded up at his place of work (say, a meat-packing plant) or his residence (say his home in Long Island), detained, and ejected from the country?

As a broad statement, in both instances, I would say yes.

If the immigration law itself is immoral because it keeps out honest, hard-working, law-abiding people for irrational reasons, such as labor protectionism or simple racism, is it then moral to round up immigrants who have violated that law and kick them out? Do they have any rights?

Yes, they do. Our government must respect everyone's rights at all times. Yes, its job is to protect the rights of American citizens, but it can only harm non-Americans if there is a conflict between the safety of Americans and the well-being of foreigners. That is why bombing Hiroshima was justified, despite the death of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians. We were at war.

It is on the same principle that we can keep out foreigners from hostile countries. However, it is simply wrong for the government to indulge irrational premises and keep out foreigners who do not represent a threat to Americans.

Interestingly, when the government does so, it gains power over Americans living here and ends up violating their rights. Imagine being a Hispanic *citizen*, for example, and having immigration police round you up or demand that you show papers proving your citizenship. That is happening now in this country because of our labor protectionism against Hispanic immigrants.

Free trade and free immigration are corollary principles. Both are based on man's right to his own life.

Do immigrants have a right to enter our country, or do they enter by permission? I honestly don't have a grasp of the subtleties of the distinction well enough to answer one way or the other. However, I can say this. No matter how the authority of our government to police its borders is defined, our government can never violate the rights of anyone who does not represent a threat to Americans.

That is why the only justification for keeping out foreigners is security. The ability to keep out foreigners is an exercise of military and police self-defense. It can only be used for that purpose.

As an aside, I do think it is consistent with that principle for government to exclude foreigners from entry in exactly the manner you describe it. If they come from a hostile country, the government can put the burden of proof on the foreigner. Doing so is a legitimate act of self-defense by our government.

However, doing that for non-Muslim immigrants from a typical European or Asian country would be unjust. And for a Muslim, a standard should exist that would permit entry of a friendly Muslim. In time of war or near-war, we may dispense with such individualized examinations out of necessity. That is a temporary necessity of war.

Our current immigration policies are completely irrational. We kept out Hong Kong businessmen on the eve of the Chinese takeover, but we freely allow radical Pakistani Muslims into the country. We kick out hard-working Mexican laborers. We deny Microsoft enough visas to import software engineers.

This club is right out of Animal House.

Inspector said...

The Japanese-Americans rounded up by FDR were, to my knowledge, citizens so yes their rights were violated.

As for the Mexican you mention, the question is simply: does he have the right to skip past our security and borders? No he does not. Not even if our security criteria are entirely looney. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Supposing that a voluntarily financed government put completely irrational and punitive fees on contract enforcement. And suppose a man used fraud to try to get the government to enforce a contract of his where he did not pay the fee. If the government put him in jail, would it be violating his rights? Even if the fee was so irrational that it was harming the country greatly because so few could pay it and it wasn't even needed?

The answer is NO: he broke the law. Even if it was an unreasonable fee; even if he would be totally out of business had be complied with the law, it still violated nobody's rights. A sane government would change its ways and offer amnesty, but it wouldn't have violated anyone's rights.

***

I think we both agree that nobody has the right to become a citizen. It's something we have a right to set up requirements and tests and oaths for.

So, then, it's entirely a question of borders and who gets to cross them.

So to start: Our government must respect everyone's rights, whether they are a citizen or not, yes. But does everyone have a right to walk over our borders without permission? No. So that statement does not affect the debate.

Before a government is established, a man has a right to invite who he chooses onto his territory. But with the establishment of a government, it's not just your territory that he's being invited onto. It's the security zone that is the whole country. Can you claim the right to speak for the whole country? No, that's why we have elected representatives: to decide these kinds of things.

The question of which people to let in, and on what terms, is a question similar to "how many senators should there be, and how often should they be elected?" It's not a question of rights. If someone specifically invites a foreigner in, then it begins to become a question of whether the government is properly carrying out its duty as regards his delegated right to decide who gets to come into the Club's territory.

But there are many other functions of the state which are not a question of rights, but certainly must be decided and can't be decided by the first guy to voice an opinion. Such as: where to build the police station? What color to make the uniforms?

Yes, even these decisions must serve the purpose of protecting the citizens' rights. Uniforms are are bright neon pink will not allow for the most efficacious apprehension of criminals, and so it would be improper to outfit them. But the point is that you can disagree with a decision like that, and it doesn't mean your rights have been violated.

Even when you have a direct motivation to want a certain government policy, that doesn't mean you have a right to it. Suppose you're a uniform manufacturer. The police must buy uniforms based not on what is good for you, but on what is in the interests of the citizens as a whole. If they pick a uniform supplier that makes shoddier uniforms than you, have they violated anyone's rights? No, which isn't to say that they are necessarily doing the correct thing which they must, by the terms of their formative purpose (serve the interests of the citizen), do.

People sometimes ask me, if a Capitalist government had no power to violate rights, then what would people vote for? What would be the difference between one politician and another? One party or another? What would government do?

Well, short of the flippant "a whole lot less!" this is just that sort of thing. Deciding who gets in and on what terms.

(And when I say it is a matter of security, I mean that in a much broader sense then I think you understand. It's not just "who is at war with us?" or "do we know this guy isn't a criminal?" It's also: "do we have the manpower to police this place properly if we add another 1,000,000 people?" or even "will it impede the law to have lots of people running around who don't even speak the language?")

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector, as you make your point more clear, I have to disagree with you quite strenuously.

First, an unjust law is unjust. It is moral to disobey an unjust law. Yes, you have to prove that the law was unjust in a courtroom and take the chance that the legal system does not throw out the bad law and that you might be unfairly punished, but you are under no obligation to obey an immoral law.

Our immigration laws are patently unjust. I gave some examples in my last post. To take this further using your example, it is no business of government what language people speak, etc. To require someone to speak English to come here would be arbitrary and absurd. Just on that point, I recall that nearly as many German speakers entered this country in the 1800s as English speakers. What if they had a sufficient majority to make German the official language and keep out all English speakers?

I detect a fear of foreigners implicit in your comments. Move to New York. People speak Spanish or Hindi or Russian on every street corner and in every subway car. These people come here to *work*. They work in restaurants and open restaurants. They refurbish buildings and they own those buildings. Their presence is *beneficial* to all New Yorkers.

I have refrained from stating the obvious, but America is indeed a country of immigrants. All of us, you and me, are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants one or a few generations removed. Those immigrants -- including the German, Polish, Italian, Chinese-speaking ones, to name a few -- built this country and continue to build it today.

Economically, immigrants are not a threat. They are a positive.

The only threat comes for reasons of national security, specifically and objectively defined.

I encourage Mexicans to break our immigration laws and come here. I benefit from their presence. The solution to the "problem" of their presence here isn't to set up a police state that breaks into people's homes and places of business to round them up and kick them out. The solution is to repeal the unjust immigration law.

As I said before, in order to enforce the unjust immigration law, the rights of legal residents are violated, as are the rights of employers, landlords, etc., who do business with these immigrants.

The assimilation argument against immigration doesn't hold water either. Here in New York, there were massive, multi-block zones where German, for example, was spoken as the first language. I live a few blocks from one of these areas. You can still see building signs permanently engraved with German words such as "Bibliothek" (library).

Those Germans eventually learned English and assimilated because it made sense to. In any case, while they lived in their "little Germany" and predominantly spoke German they were not a threat to anyone and productively earned their way.

The same can be said for immigrant communities of Chinese, Koreans, many Hispanics, Russians, etc.

The problem that America has is not immigration. We fail to let in productive people, as I mentioned in my last comment, and we are too liberal letting in people who are objective threats, such as radical Muslim imams.

The fundamental problem we have is a large welfare system, which allows many native-born Americans and some immigrants to free-load. The problem is also a pussy-footed, cowardly policy of defense, that allows enemy countries such as Iran to operate with near impunity.

Let's focus our energies on ending the mixed economy welfare state and in defeating aggressively and swiftly our foreign enemies.

Anti-immigration won't solve any of those problems. It will keep out a lot of productive people.

Inspector said...

Galileo:

First, not every unjust action is a violation of rights. If my best friend's car broke down in front of my house and I told him to go get lost, that would be unjust, but it would not be a violation of his rights.

As I said in my example of uniform suppliers, not every decision that a government makes is a question of rights, and just because it is acting improperly or unjustly does not mean that it has necessarily violated someone's rights.

Now.

I would ask that you allow me to be blunt:

Unfortunately, almost none of your response addresses the fundamental points of what I've said. It's now been several times that you've hit me with a diatribe against anti-immigration that would be a suitable response to a conservative, but not to me.

It's like you're arguing against someone else - or their ghost. Please, read what I have written and respond to what I have actually said.

Did I say that it would be in our best interests to restrict immigration in the way that we do it now? NO. Then why spend thirteen paragraphs talking about it as if I had?

It does not address in the slightest the fundamental point that I have made: that no non-citizen has the right to enter a legitimate nation's territory; that they do so by permission.

Every one of your responses to me so far has included unnecessary (and often quite elaborate and lengthy) arguments against points I have not made and do not agree with, and I am simply tired of it. If you take offense to my stating this, then that is unfortunate, that but enough is enough!

Please, I implore you - for both of our sakes, do not project other peoples' arguments onto me and respond only to me and what I actually say.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Preceding post: "... the fundamental point [is] ... that no non-citizen has the right to enter a legitimate nation's territory; that they do so by permission."

I don't have a fully resolved position on immigration policy, which would require knowledge of philosophy of law and political science, I suppose. I do have a tentative position and questions.

Ontologically, a right is a condition of life in society, a condition required for peaceful, honest, and rational individuals to survive and flourish. Society -- that is, the sum of human interactions -- does not stop at political borders. The supposition that, other than for purposes of study, a society stops at a border is a collectivist notion, the same sort of notion that sees a "nation" (such as the "Sioux nation") as a collective defined by race, customs, geography -- or language.

If I live in Canada and speak mainly French, but I want to trade my labor with someone living in Montana, don't I -- and he, the buyer of my labor -- have the right to do so?

In a proper society, and under normal (not emergency) conditions, don't I have the right to travel to Montana to take the offered job? Yes, at the same time, the federal government has a "right" (delegated from some of its citizens) to insist on minimal operational requirements such as identification, for example.

Both actions are rightful. I see no conflict.

What is the rationale for asserting the negative -- that no right exists, e.g., to trade with other peaceful, honest individuals who happen to live on opposite sides of a border, like the one between Canada and the United States?

Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.com

Galileo Blogs said...

Fair enough. I was responding to an argument that I thought was implicit in your basic question. It may not have been. I take it that you are not the strawman I have set up and that you either largely agree with my points about immigration, or simply refuse to be a strawman. My apologies for setting you up as a strawman.

On the other hand, if you don't agree with my argument about immigration, feel free to clarify, or not, as you wish.

I have focused on the big issue of what the proper immigration policy should be because I see that as the really important issue. I simply don't have a clear view on whether immigrants have a right to immigrate or if it is by permission. I stated my uncertainty on this issue much earlier. Part of the reason for my uncertainty is that I don't see how I can discuss such a narrow topic without discussing the larger issue of what the right immigration policy should be.

Having said that, I will try to state more precisely my confusion on the "permission versus right" issue. Everyone has rights, at all times, whether people are domiciled in their country of citizenship or not. Everyone must respect everyone else's rights, as must the governments they elect.

As part of my right to my own life, do I have the right to travel freely? If the answer is yes, then it would be a violation of an immigrant's rights to arbitrarily or unjustly deny him entry into a country.

I think it is a false dichotomy to say that either an immigrant enters by permission *or* he has a right to enter. Consider that defined either way, the question quickly becomes the same: What are the proper standards for admitting immigrants?

If the immigrant enters by permission, by what standard does the admitting country admit him? Are there no limits to the government's power to restrict entry? In other words, does not the immigrant have rights?

If we say the immigrant has a right to entry, does that mean free entry under all circumstances? Or are there circumstances when the necessities of self-defense permit the government to legitimately trump that right and deny entry?

Starting from the premise of "permission" or "by right" leads to the same question: What should the proper immigration policy be? In both cases, it also leads to the conclusion that government can, in certain circumstances, restrict immigration. What are those circumstances? Security, i.e., protecting the rights of its citizens.

A simple way to state it is that everyone, foreigners and citizens, have rights, but since our government's only obligation is to protect *us*, if a conflict emerges between our rights and the rights of foreigners, our rights trump theirs.

To elaborate on another point you have made, a mass policy of, say, banning entry of Iranians because we are at war or near-war with them, is consistent with the idea that immigrants have a right of entry. The mass banning of immigration is an exercise of military self-defense, in that context. Out of necessity, it is a broad-brush policy justified by the exigency of war or near-war, in the same manner that the standard of what is justifiable killing in wartime is very different from what it is in peacetime.

In war, soldiers kill other soldiers and even civilians in justifiable circumstances that would be murder or manslaughter in peacetime.

My argument is that the only proper basis for restricting immigration is security, i.e., national defense and criminal security. Our immigration policy should protect us from the threat of physical force from foreigners, just as it does domestically.

Galileo Blogs said...

Burgess,
I published my response to Inspector above. I believe we have simultaneously made the same point. Thank you for your far simpler exposition.
GB

Inspector said...

Galileo,

I very much appreciate your reply and commitment to understanding me!

To answer your question, no I don't disagree with anything you said past your second paragraph, with the sole (and small) exception that my language comment was only a question of security and the police's ability to enforce it effectively. Since it's not essential, I'd say it would be best to skip it for now.

To answer your other question, I do not think it at all necessary to focus on what the proper policy should be, because as far as I know - and as I have (several times) said, we do not disagree on that.

So let's start from here, then...

The question under discussion is entirely the question of whether an immigrant has a right to live (or visit) here.

To state my case positively, we the citizens of a country, have a right to establish a national border for our security and screen, include, or exclude who we choose.

To answer Burgess' question (hello Burgess), "If I live in Canada and speak mainly French, but I want to trade my labor with someone living in Montana, don't I -- and he, the buyer of my labor -- have the right to do so?"

No I would say that you do not. A right, to quote the Ayn Rand Lexicon p 214, "is that which can be exercised without anyone's permission." If you must ask permission to do something, then it is not at all a right.

Certainly, you have a right to offer your labor to him. But the question of whether he has the right to accept your offer is more complex than it might seem. If he has delegated his right to determine who enters his country to his government (just as we delegate the right of retaliatory force to the police and courts)*, then he does not in fact have the authority to make such decisions. He has delegated said right and said authority. To cross a national border, you do business not only with the man, but with his government as well.

The question of whether a nation is being rational or irrational in their security policy is not material. That nation has the right to decide what policy best serves their security and to enforce it. It would not be moral for you, a foreigner, to violate this right of theirs, even if they were acting irrationally in making that decision.

(this does NOT have any bearing on the question of whether we ought to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants)

The question of one individual citizen disagreeing with the policy also is not material. The nature of a representative government, as such, is that decisions are made by the elected representatives and not only when 100% of the citizens agree with them. A government that was exclusively devoted to the protection of rights would not be exempt from this fact. When you delegate a right of yours, you do lose absolute control over how it is carried out and your disagreement with how it is carried out does not necessarily constitute a violation of your rights. For instance, if you think that murderers should be executed with hanging but your duly elected representative republic decides that they should be executed with the electric chair, then your right to self-defense is not violated and you would not have the right to deft them by attempting to hang convicted murderers yourself. (See my example of uniforms for more on this)

Finally, Galileo, your example of soldiers in wartime is somewhat flawed. You are correct to say that if a "right of entry" existed, it could be restricted in wartime and the responsible party would be the aggressor government which initiated force and thus necessitated the action. (not that I agree such a right exists)

But it is not correct to say that soldiers do what would be murder in peacetime. Soldiers act upon their obligation to defend themselves and their citizens and anyone who gets caught in the crossfire is not their fault (if they are acting properly, that is) - whether it is war or peace. The difference in wartime is that soldiers act in the midst of enemy citizens.

If, in wartime, there were enemy soldiers operating inside our cities, where the civilians were citizens, the rules for soldiers for collateral damage would be no different than for police.

This brings me back to one of Burgess' points: "Society -- that is, the sum of human interactions -- does not stop at political borders."

I very much disagree with this. A state is an agency established for and by a citizenry. It is very much a kind of "private club" that stops at the borders. Society, in the context of this discussion, is the sum of individuals who are members of that organization (i.e. nation). They are both part owners and (literally) voting members of that organization. That organization is both responsible for them, and their responsibility.

For more elaboration on this point, I refer you to Ayn Rand's statements on the moral status of innocents in war, especially from "Ayn Rand Answers," page 94. (which is also available here.

"Q: What do you think about the killing of innocent people in war?

AR: This is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government. The majority in any country at war is often innocent. But if by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overthrow their bad government and establish a better one, then they must pay the price for the sins of their government, as we are all paying for the sins of ours. And if people put up with dictatorship—as some do in Soviet Russia, and some did in Nazi Germany—they deserve what their government deserves. Our only concern should be who started the war. Once that's established, there's no need to consider the "rights" of that country, because it has initiated the use of force and therefore stepped outside the principle of rights.
"

If "The supposition that, other than for purposes of study, a society stops at a border is a collectivist notion," then it is a "collectivist notion" to which Ayn Rand very much subscribed.

-Inspector

* which is also NOT to say that you are restricted from defending yourself against the initiation of force - you retain that right, but are subject to the evaluation of the due process of law when you do so.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

You seem to be saying that because I delegate the border control function to government to exercise, by the mere fact of exercising it against immigrants, they do not have a right to travel freely.

I don't see that. If the police in trying to apprehend a criminal have set up a roadblock at which I must stop and be checked before I can pass, have I lost my right to travel freely?

No. Everyone has a right to travel freely. That right does not go away the at an international border because a border guard must check my documents before I can pass.

Governments in exercising their policing powers do have the necessary power to check, question, and even apprehend innocent people under specifically defined circumstances.

The limit on that governmental power must be the concept of rights. A government has complete latitude, except when rights are violated. To use the club analogy, the country must be a "non-discriminatory" club where everyone has the right to enter the premises, unless they are known to be thieves or arsonists who want to do harm.

Foreigners have the same rights that domestic residents and citizens have. This includes the right to travel freely, and therefore includes the right to immigrate.

I simply cannot imagine how government power can be properly circumscribed without the concept of rights. What is the standard that should govern which immigrants can enter? Is it simply the standard of democracy, whatever a majority of the club-members/citizens decide at that particular moment?

I shudder to think of the same principle being applied to the domestic policing function, and I cannot see the logic in how an objective standard applies in the domestic instance, but a non-objective standard (i.e., anything goes) applies in the international instance.

Inspector said...

"If the police in trying to apprehend a criminal have set up a roadblock at which I must stop and be checked before I can pass, have I lost my right to travel freely?"

No, because they have a burden of proof to show why they must detain you - because you have a right to travel freely in your country.

"Governments in exercising their policing powers do have the necessary power to check, question, and even apprehend innocent people under specifically defined circumstances."

Yes, but that does not follow logically that this is what they are doing at the borders.

"Foreigners have the same rights that domestic residents and citizens have. This includes the right to travel freely, and therefore includes the right to immigrate."

No, this "right to travel freely," as you put it, does not apply to the private property of others. Similarly, it does not apply to a private club in which a number of people have combined their separate, private properties under a single protective contract.

"I simply cannot imagine how government power can be properly circumscribed without the concept of rights."

Then how do you answer my numerous examples of non-rights-based decisions that governments make?

"I shudder to think of the same principle being applied to the domestic policing function,"

Well, it cannot apply thusly because it is based on the concept of citizenship, so it could not apply to citizens.

"and I cannot see the logic in how an objective standard applies in the domestic instance, but a non-objective standard (i.e., anything goes) applies in the international instance."

Then you cannot see how a "non-objective" standard can apply to a private property owner's right to "restrict" peoples "right to free movement" as applies to his property?

I'm afraid, Galileo, that your objections so far amount to simply begging the question. You're simply assuming your own premises are true and objecting to my formulation based on it not matching those premises.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Inspector, I am bewildered. Could you summarize your argument? I am not even sure now what your basic conclusion is, much less your premises.

For example, are you saying this:

CONCLUSION: A proper government can -- within its own territory -- prohibit, restrict or regulate entry and travel by foreigners, even in normal circumstances and with no evidence that they represent a threat to the rights of the people living under the government's jurisdiction.

Or this:

CONCLUSION: The right to liberty, in the form of travel by peaceful, honest individuals, applies only to the citizens of that jurisdiction living within the boundaries of a government's jurisdiction.

Once I figure out what your main point is, then I can concentrate on what your premises are.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

I think the key idea here is that only individuals possess rights. The existence of governments does not change that. Is the freedom to travel a part of one's right to life? I would say that it is. Free movement is one type of action that men perform in order to live.

This presupposes that such movement does not occur at the expense of others' rights. So, yes, one must obtain the permission of private property owners to enter their property. However, those owners also possess their rights individually. If a bar owner on the other side of an international border wants to sell me a drink, I have the right to cross that border, enter his bar and buy a drink. The same applies if I want to cross that border to work, go to school, date a significant other, sightsee, etc.

No government can take away that right.

All of this is consistent with the government restricting specific immigration for reasons of national defense or to keep out criminals. Doing so is precisely analogous to my example of a roadblock. Governments can prevent entry or apprehend criminals or residents of hostile countries because they are a threat to the well-being of its citizens. That is the only legitimate reason to restrict immigration, and it is based on rights and fully consistent with it.

The club idea just doesn't wash. Club members can't vote to violate the rights of foreigners, simply because they can physically get away with it. That is certainly a club that I would reject, since at its base it accepts that it is okay to violate individual rights.

Inspector said...

"So, yes, one must obtain the permission of private property owners to enter their property. However, those owners also possess their rights individually."

Yes, until they form a government, at which point they delegate that right to their government to determine what is the proper criteria for security. See my example of disagreeing on how to execute criminals.

"Club members can't vote to violate the rights of foreigners, simply because they can physically get away with it."

Again, you are begging the question and presupposing that an unlimited "right to free movement" exists which does not stop at someone else's property line - or at the duly delegated jurisdiction of a government that represents several peoples' property lines.

Inspector said...

Burgess,

I will summarize it as follows:

A proper government has the right (derived from the individual rights of its members) -- to determine who does and does not represent a threat to its security and to be the sole arbiter of which non-citizens are allowed entry and travel and which are not.

The question of whether it is doing a good job in this respect is a separate and unrelated question. The non-citizens must respect the rights of the citizens, acting by proxy of their government, to determine who is allowed entry and who is not.

If the government is acting improperly in this respect, then this is a matter between it and its citizens - the rights of the foreigners do not enter into this equation, as it is not their country or property.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector, you say that I am:

"...presupposing that an unlimited "right to free movement" exists which does not stop at someone else's property line"

That is the opposite of what I said. In my immediately prior post I said:

"This presupposes that such movement does not occur at the expense of others' rights. So, yes, one must obtain the permission of private property owners to enter their property."

A right implies the obligation not to violate the rights of others. That should be obvious, and I have stated it as such.

As for the thrust of your argument, I think you are not nailing down the concept of rights. Rights are always possessed by individuals, even if, for example, the right of self defense is delegated.

Moreover, the only way the scope of government power can be properly delimited is by using the concept of rights. The only standard by which a government action can be judged to be proper is by reference to rights.

In the case of immigration, the rights of everyone matter, both citizens and foreigners. Just as it cannot violate the rights of its own citizens, a government cannot violate the rights of foreigners.

Consider this principle applied to the area of law. Does a foreigner have standing to sue in an American court? Can a foreigner enter into contracts with Americans and be treated equally? Can a foreigner own property in the same manner as an American?

The answer is yes to all questions. Why? Because the foreigner has the same rights as the American does. Rights are individual attributes.

Freedom of movement is part and parcel of one's individual rights, just as the right to own property, enter into contracts, etc.

***

The closest analogue to the type of society you are describing, in my mind, is Ancient Rome. The only thing that mattered were the rights of Romans. Yet even the Romans ended up recognizing, to a great degree, that non-Romans were worthy of a certain level of legal protection -- i.e., they had a measure of rights. Interestingly, the Romans ended up recognizing the rights of foreigners (to a limited degree) out of self-interest, in the name of commerce. For the Romans to get their grain or other goods, the foreigners on the other side of the contract had to have some assurance that their side of the contract would be protected.

The Roman example is similar to the point I made in my original blog entry: "Respecting an immigrant's right to live here is respecting our own right to life."

It is in our self interest to acknowledge that foreigners fully have the same rights that we have, for reasons similar to my Roman commerce example.

cdtech122 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inspector said...

Again, I do not disagree that establishing the rule of law involves protecting the rights of foreigners inside a government's jurisdiction, but this is a question of criminals representing an objective threat to even the citizens they do not harm, and is not a question of the rights of foreigners, who a government is not as such obliged to protect. (That is more a matter of self-interest in diplomacy)

But, once again: none of this has any bearing on the fact that foreigners enter by permission - be that the permission of individual citizens, or the permission of their delegated agency.

Again: If the government is acting improperly in this respect, then this is a matter between it and its citizens i.e. the rights of its citizens to invite who they choose. But it is not a matter of the rights of the foreigners, as their right to free action stops once they enter someone else's property - or a zone of properties that the owners have banded together and delegated jurisdiction over to an agency formed on their behalf.

In the context of today, you very much can say that our government is mishandling rights - inasmuch as it is mishandling OUR right to invite nonthreatening people into our country. When we delegate our rights in this regard to the state, there is an expectation that it act objectively and in our interests, which it is demonstrably not doing.

But this is not a matter of the rights of foreigners, since their rights are not involved here.

Galileo Blogs said...

Governments are not obliged to protect the rights of foreigners. They do not have that positive obligation.

However, they do have the negative obligation not to violate the rights of any *individuals*. In fulfilling this negative obligation, it does not matter whether the individuals are citizens or foreigners.

I think the essential question is: Does an individual have the right to travel freely? If the answer is yes, then an immigration policy cannot keep out people who do not represent threats to its citizens.

Yes, citizens of a country delegate the policing power to their government, which includes the military, police, border security, etc. Yet there are objective principles of what the proper limits are of that delegated authority. The key limit is that no government can violate the rights of individuals. It can only exercise force in self-defense. Preventing the movement of an individual is an act of force. It can only be used for purpose of self-defense.

The focus on "permission versus right" is a false dichotomy as I have said before, and it confuses the issue. The correct answer is yes to both. Foreigners enter by permission in a narrow sense. They must gain approval from a border official, who grants them "permission" to enter. However, that border official cannot deny that permission if that person is peacefully going about his private business. Why? Because that person has rights, specifically in this context the right to travel freely.

Acknowledging that individuals always retain their rights, regardless of "whose" soil they stand on in no way hamstrings a government from vigorously prosecuting its self-defense. Why would it?

Inspector said...

"I think the essential question is: Does an individual have the right to travel freely?"

Yes, that is the essential question. As I said, "their right to free action stops once they enter someone else's property - or a zone of properties that the owners have banded together and delegated jurisdiction over to an agency formed on their behalf."

"The focus on "permission versus right" is a false dichotomy as I have said before"

And as I said before, the concept of "right" is not compatible with permission.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Thanks for the summary, Inspector. In discussions like this, I find it helpful to occasionally "spiral in" after the discussion has spiralled out several times to related issues.

At 1047 pm, Oct. 9, "Inspector" said: "I will summarize it as follows: [...] A proper government has the right (derived from the individual rights of its members) -- to determine who does and does not represent a threat to its security and to be the sole arbiter of which non-citizens are allowed entry and travel and which are not."

[Boldface is mine--Burgess]

First, I would suggest a revision to the initial statement, to make it clearer and more precise: The right delegated by citizens who support a proper government, I would say, is the right of self-defense, that is, the use of retaliatory force -- and only that right. Of course, identifying a past attacker or a present, threatening one is instrumentally necessary for that government monopoly and should be among its powers.

Second, the statement in boldface is fallacious, specifically committing the fallacy of composition. I, as a "part" of a "whole," indeed have a right to exclude -- for any purpose whatsoever -- people from entering my property, if, for example, I own a home or business. It does not follow logically that I can delegate that right to a government (the "whole") for other individual property owners. In other words, no proper government has a "right" to exclude visitors to my individual neighbors' properties.*

A government has only one justification for existing: protection of the rights of the individuals within its jurisdiction--whether they be citizens or noncitizens. That function of government does not include violating the rights of my neighbors to invite peaceful, honest foreigners to come work or visit on my neighbors' property.

Thanks for the discussion. It has helped sharpen my views a littler further.

*The context, as I have specified it for my points earlier, is that conditions are normal (not emergency) and that the would-be visitors are not a threat.

Galileo Blogs said...

I agree with Burgess, and clarify one point of mine, when I said that "governments do not have the obligation to protect the rights of foreigners." That statement is true outside of the government's jurisdiction, but not true within its borders. Burgess states it correctly:

"A government has only one justification for existing: protection of the rights of the individuals within its jurisdiction--whether they be citizens or noncitizens."

I thank both Burgess and Inspector for this discussion. Although I disagree with Inspector on this issue and can't think of anything else to say in response to the points that have already been made, the discussion has also helped me think through some of these issues more precisely.

Inspector said...

I do not believe that the key points of my argument have been addressed, but if that's as far as you both want to go, then that's your prerogative(s).

Burgess Laughlin said...

Inspector, of "the key points of [your] argument," that you believe have not been "addressed" here, which point (in the form of one, simple, declarative sentence) is the most important to your argument? (Also, it would help to specify exactly what conclusion this point -- a premise -- supports.)

I can't promise I will respond, but I would very much like to know -- or not -- that I missed the most important single point of your whole argument about the issue we are discussing here -- whether a proper government can, in the specified context, prohibit peaceful, honest foreigners from visiting or doing business with peaceful, honest citizens of this country.

Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.com

Inspector said...

Burgess,

I would say your first misunderstanding is that I am arguing that "a proper government can, in the specified context, prohibit peaceful, honest foreigners from visiting or doing business with peaceful, honest citizens of this country."

That is not the case.

Here is the essential part of my argument I refer to:

"Foreigners enter by permission - be that the permission of individual citizens, or the permission of their delegated agency.

If the government is acting improperly in this respect, then this is a matter between it and its citizens i.e. the rights of its citizens to invite who they choose. But it is not a matter of the rights of the foreigners, as their right to free action stops once they enter someone else's property - or a zone of properties that the owners have banded together and delegated jurisdiction over to an agency formed on their behalf."

And this is where I believe your argument does not address mine,

"A government has only one justification for existing: protection of the rights of the individuals within its jurisdiction--whether they be citizens or noncitizens. That function of government does not include violating the rights of my neighbors to invite peaceful, honest foreigners to come work or visit on my neighbors' property."

This does not in fact address what I have said. As I said, if a government acts improperly in this respect, it is a matter between it and its citizens.

The point is that it is not the rights of the foreigners who are violated - because their right to free action stops at the border. From there, they proceed by permission, not by right. The right involved is simply the right of the citizens to provide that permission.

To say that foreigners have a "right to live here," as Galileo did, is the premise of transnational progressivism, and undercuts the rights of citizens in important ways.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Inspector, 713 pm, Oct. 11: "Here is the essential part of my argument I refer to: [...] 'Foreigners enter by permission - be that the permission of individual citizens, or the permission of their delegated agency.' [...]"

[I deleted the sentences that follow because they deal with a side issue and are not "the essential part" of your argument, as well as I can tell.]

I agree with the "essential part of [your] argument." For example, if, as a citizen of Canada, I step across the U. S. border from my property onto Mr. Smith's farm, I can do so only with Mr. Smith's permission, which is a matter of morality, a permission which he has a right to extend or not. If he gives me permission and we have a contract, of one sort or another, then we are acting under our right to liberty and property.

This private, individual-to-individual situation applies whether it occurs within a nation-state or across nation-state boundaries. Whether I am Mr. Smith's U.S. farm neighbor or his Canadian farm neighbor, the same principle of morality in society applies.

If a proper-government agency stops me at the border between our two farms and asks me questions and performs other checks to determine whether I am a threat to the people residing in the U. S. (citizens or not), they are doing so as agents of the people of the U. S. to the extent that their purpose is to protect rights (from criminals and invaders), since that -- and not excluding foreign-language speakers, for example -- is the only justification for any government function. (I am assuming, of course, the same context I specified earlier: a proper government.)

If the government grants me permission, as an administrative act following specified laws, then I proceed. If their decision is nonobjective and they have refused me entrance, then they have violated my rights -- specifically liberty and property -- because they prevent me from engaging in contracts with other peaceful and honest individuals -- who, in this case, live inside the U.S. territory.

I assume we are in agreement so far.

Where I balk is in your nationalistic claim that rights stop at a border. As Ayn Rand observes ("Individual Rights", Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 215, citing "Textbook of Americanism," p. 6):

"Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another."

If the U. S. government nonobjectively refuses me -- as a man who presents no threat -- administrative permission to visit Mr. Smith, then the U. S. government has violated American Mr. Smith's rights and as well as mine. Rights, as moral principles, are universal. The right to life, which is the source of all other rights, does not stop at a border.

Earlier I suggested that you are committing a fallacy of composition. Now I suggest that you are also equivocating on the term "permission." You need to be clear about whether you are:
- using "permission" in a moral sense (as a contrast to rights, as moral principles); or ...
- using the term in the particular sense, as an application of the rights of a particular property owner giving -- or not giving -- specific permission to a particular individual visitor to enter his property; or ...
- using the term in the sense of an administrative function of a government in certain severely limited circumstances.

P. S. -- This wraps up the discussion for me, with one possible exception. I need to go back and examine the wording again, but I suspect that you misunderstood what I was saying much earlier about "society," and therefore you inadvertently misrepresented my position.

If I have time, I will post on that. Otherwise, thanks for the discussion. It has brought me into new areas. I am far from certainty, but I have made a little progress in the fog.

Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.com

Inspector said...

As an aid to your further examination, then, (if you do get to it) I would highlight this part as being the disagreement:

"If their decision is nonobjective and they have refused me entrance, then they have violated my rights -- specifically liberty and property -- because they prevent me from engaging in contracts with other peaceful and honest individuals -- who, in this case, live inside the U.S. territory."

"You," in the above example, being the foreigner.

I submit that it is not your, the foreigner's, rights that are being abridged, but rather exclusively those of the citizen. As a foreigner, you have no inherent right to travel into others' property or have your contracts accepted by others. If a government acts improperly to prevent its citizen from extending permission to you to enter or to enter contracts with you, that is a business between him and his government, and not a matter of your rights. You only have a right to your end of the bargain, not to his.

Or, to put it another way:

You, again, have not addressed a part of my argument: "or the permission of their delegated agency." If a single man acted non-objectively in refusing a foreigner permission to enter his property, would this violate the foreigner's rights? No, of course not. This does not change simply because it is a delegated agency which is making the decision to allow entry and not a single man. So if there is a conflict between the decision of the single man and his delegated agency, this is none of the business of the foreigner.

Again, Galileo's formulation is "an immigrant's right to live here," which is not accurate. Immigrants have permission to live here; they do not do so by right until they are citizens.

You continue to confuse the argument by bringing into it scenarios in which the delegated agency is acting against the wishes of its agents. I think it would be helpful to picture a scenario in which there is no conflict in the decision of extending permission between the citizens and the delegated agency. Suppose that nobody actually wants to extend permission to the foreigner to enter. Then does he have a right to enter?

By Galileo's formulation (and your agreement with it), he does. Since he has a "right to live here" or, if nobody will sell him property, a right to at least be a transient here.

Say what you will about our government acting improperly vis a vis immigration, but illegal immigrants are still violating our right to evaluate them objectively from a security perspective - this right being exercised by our designated agency. The fact that our designated agency is doing so in a way which does not best represent our interests does not change this.

Two wrongs do not make a "right," in other words.

Inspector said...

Two wrongs do not make a "right," in other words.

In other words, just because our government is mishandling border security does not give foreigners a right to bypass it altogether. A border-jumper is not fully acting within his rights in the same way that a moonshiner is acting within his rights to produce moonshine.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector said,

"If a single man acted non-objectively in refusing a foreigner permission to enter his property, would this violate the foreigner's rights? No, of course not. This does not change simply because it is a delegated agency which is making the decision to allow entry and not a single man."

Yes it does, if the foreigner is not a threat. It would be an unjust exercise of authority by the immigration officials and a violation of the foreigner's right to travel freely, which is part of his right to life. This certainly presumes the foreigner has obtained or will have obtained permission from an individual property owner to enter his property. For example, he may be traveling to a business meeting on the other side of the international border. He has permission of the property owner to attend the business meeting. If the immigration officials refuse his entry for an illegitimate reason (e.g., perhaps Lou Dobbs doesn't like him), then the immigration officials have violated both his rights and the property rights of his would-be American host.

Rights are individual attributes. If someone does have the right to travel freely, it makes no difference which legal jurisdiction he crosses. He always retains that right.

Does someone have the right to travel freely? Is that part of his right to life?

Incidentally, regarding your second post, yes, someone does have the right to make moonshine. Why wouldn't he? Just because the government improperly outlawed it??

We all have the right to grow marijuana, not pay taxes, etc. To say we have the right, which we do, is not the same thing as saying we should do those things, since it involves breaking the law. I do not think it is immoral to break an unjust law. It depends entirely on the context and the cost/benefit of breaking or obeying the unjust law.

That is why I support immigrants who cross our borders illegally, if they are peaceful and are coming here for peaceful purposes. I benefit from their presence in this country personally, and I applaud their defiance of a horrendously unjust law.

I have made several points here, but I am particularly interested in your answers to my specific questions above. They are not rhetorical.

Inspector said...

Galileo,

I will endevor to answer all of your points in turn.

"Yes it does, if the foreigner is not a threat. It would be an unjust exercise of authority by the immigration officials and a violation of the foreigner's right to travel freely, which is part of his right to life."

You are missing the point. As I said: "You continue to confuse the argument by bringing into it scenarios in which the delegated agency is acting against the wishes of its agents. I think it would be helpful to picture a scenario in which there is no conflict in the decision of extending permission between the citizens and the delegated agency. Suppose that nobody actually wants to extend permission to the foreigner to enter. Then does he have a right to enter?"

"This certainly presumes the foreigner has obtained or will have obtained permission from an individual property owner to enter his property."

You can't presume that because it is directly muddling the point I am making - that the foreigner enters by permission. The question of whether that permission is up to individuals or whether those individuals have delegated it to their government is also not material. The point is that the foreigner proceeds by permission and not by right.

"Rights are individual attributes. If someone does have the right to travel freely, it makes no difference which legal jurisdiction he crosses. He always retains that right."

That's why this "right to travel freely" is nothing of the sort. It's an anti-concept. I will note that your statement of "yes, it does" contains no argument to support it besides the assertion of this right, which has nothing to support it.

The fact is, that people have the right to travel freely on their own (or presumably, on unowned) property. Everywhere else, they proceed by somebody's permission. The fact that this permission is largely implicit and relatively freely given in modern times is something you have to look past here.

Suppose, for example, that you were looking to travel onto the property of a person who lives in a community with a homeowners' association. The home owner invites you in, but the security chief of that HOA says that the charter gives him the authority to exclude people for security concerns. Now, a dispute would ensue in which the homeowner would claim that the charter was created to protect the homeowners' security and that the chief was being non-objective in the execution of his duty. The chief would counter that he is being objective and the individual homeowner's proposal to invite you in is a threat to the lives of the members of the association.

Notice, however, that the homeowner signed the charter which specified that the security chief is the one who makes the decisions about who is or is not a threat. This is the case, even if the charter also specifies an objective way in which the security chief must carry out his duties.

It's possible that you would end up with permission, or perhaps you would not, or perhaps you would end up being denied it even though the homeowner is right about you and the officer wrong.

No matter which way this dispute ends up being resolved, do you have the right to enter that private property? No; at no point would you have the right to do so. Because no matter what, this is a private dispute between the property owners and the entity they are contractually bound to. Your rights are not involved.

Both the owners and the agency have some claim to control over the property involved (and therefore a claim on permission to enter it) but you have no claim on that property whatsoever.

Governments are, at least in this sense, private clubs. Private clubs formed by citizens. And also private clubs that obtain jurisdiction over a specific geographic area. This jurisdiction can only be obtained if the citizens of that country own all of the geographic area from which that government is formed. Property and government are bound together, and as I have illustrated this has implications.

Continued, below, in part 2:

Inspector said...

I think your consideration of this issue would benefit from thinking about the specific nature of the entity "government." Not just as the floating abstraction "an entity which exists to protect rights," but the specific and concrete ways in which a government can and must be formed. Consider especially its nature as an agency, acting on behalf of the citizens. Consider Ayn Rand's statements on the nature of innocents in war - how she specifically said that people were responsible for the actions of their government. What did she mean by this? Their government? Why would you be responsible for the actions of "an entity which exists to protect rights?" If it were simply and only that, you couldn't be. But a government is not simply that. It is a specific agency - one that you, as a citizen, are a member of.


"Incidentally, regarding your second post, yes, someone does have the right to make moonshine."

Yes, that's my point - I think you have my meaning backwards. What I am saying is that immigration would not be an example of the kind of unjust law that one would necessarily be justified in breaking (like moonshine-making would be). Producing moonshine violates nobody's rights. But bypassing border security violates the right of the citizens, acting through their agency, to have border security.

As I said: "Say what you will about our government acting improperly vis a vis immigration, but illegal immigrants are still violating our right to evaluate them objectively from a security perspective - this right being exercised by our designated agency. The fact that our designated agency is doing so in a way which does not best represent our interests does not change this."

"I applaud their defiance of a horrendously unjust law."

The problem is: they are not only violating an unjust law - they are also violating a just one.

Unfortunately, we once again seem to be running into trouble with the fact that you have not answered all of my post of 11:40 PM, October 12, 2007. I believe I have re-asserted the appropriate points here, but I think you would do well to go back and read it and address (in your mind at least) all of the statements I made.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

I have a quick technical question: How do you bold or italicize in these comments? I can't figure out how to do it. Thanks.

GB

Inspector said...

Standard html code will do the trick. Use "<" brackets to open a tag and ">" brackets to close it. An "i" between them will get you italic and "b" will get bold. To halt the bold or italic, repeat the above with a "/" before the "i" or "b." (it is required to do that)

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

I go back to Burgess’s most recent post (10:02 AM, October 17): “Where I balk is in your nationalistic claim that rights stop at the border.”

This is the key point of your argument, and I don’t agree with it. With that argument, you are claiming that an individual’s right to freedom of movement is somehow different than all of the other rights that he possesses. It is different in such a way that it gets stripped from him when he crosses from his home country to a foreign country.

Let’s extend that idea to other rights:

Trade: A foreigner buys goods from a citizen; the goods cross the national boundary. Does the foreigner have an equal contract right to those goods as the citizen, or does his right to contract stop at the border?

Protection of intellectual property: Can a foreigner’s patent claim have equal standing as a citizen’s in the citizen’s courts?

Claims for redress of damages: Does a foreigner who is injured by a citizen have the same standing as a citizen in the citizen’s courts?

Etc.

The first point is that all of these rights -- freedom of travel, trade, protection of intellectual property, the right for redress of damages in a courtroom, to name a few examples -- are all aspects of the fundamental right of individuals: the right to life. A man has the right to his own life and to take whatever actions are necessary to sustain his life. This includes all of these subsidiary rights and many more. None of them are an anti-concept; they are corollaries of the basic right to life.

The second point is that always implicit in the concept “right” is that one does not violate the rights of others. So, when we say one has the right to paint one’s house whatever color one chooses (part of the right to property), he can do so unless his paint is somehow toxic and hurts his neighbor. When someone has the right to speak freely, it means he can say whatever he wants, until it becomes libelous, etc.

The right to travel is part of one’s right to life. It is an aspect of ownership of one’s own body. It is one of those key “self-sustaining actions” required to sustain oneself. One needs to travel to work, purchase goods, etc.

Implicit in the right to travel is that one does not violate the rights of others. So, it always means that one is either traveling either on one’s own property or the property of another with the owner’s permission. The fact that the owner may or may not grant that person permission to travel on his property does not in any way negate or change his right to travel. The same applies to the owner’s delegated authority, whether it is a homeowner association “chief” (your example) or a police force.

If any third party improperly denies your freedom to travel, he has violated your rights. If a policeman denies you entry into a building, mistakenly thinking you are trespassing or simply because he doesn’t like you, and you have permission of the property owner to enter the building, your rights are violated.

If the border police arbitrarily denies you entry, and you are entering with the permission of some private property owner (e.g., the airport, hotel, home of a friend, etc.), your rights are violated.

I don’t think you can separate out the right to travel freely from all the other subsidiary rights that are part of one’s right to life, and say that it is somehow negated by an international border. A person’s rights are always his, as are the subsidiary and corollary rights he possesses. They can be violated, but never alienated.

***

Regarding another point you made, that illegal immigrants, by violating the immigration law, even an unjust law, “[violate] our right to evaluate them objectively from a security perspective.” I agree with this. It is all the more reason to repeal the unjust law that prompts so many people to come here illegally in the first place.

Since a reasonable, legal means of entry is denied them, immigrants flood our borders illegally. Part of the solution to this security problem is to repeal the unjust law so that travelers and immigrants can enter legally. Surprisingly, weeding out the terrorists and others who threaten us will be made easier by having an orderly, rational immigration policy.

Inspector said...

"I agree with this. It is all the more reason to repeal the unjust law that prompts so many people to come here illegally in the first place."

I agree with that. But note that if you agree with me, you agree that illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. It is not appropriate to advocate it - even if it is quite appropriate to advocate changing the law.

"With that argument, you are claiming that an individual’s right to freedom of movement is somehow different than all of the other rights that he possesses. It is different in such a way that it gets stripped from him when he crosses from his home country to a foreign country."

No, you're mistaken. I do not claim that "freedom of movement" is a right that for some reason stops at the border. I am claiming that "freedom of movement" is not a right at all! As I have said repeatedly above, there is no such right - there is only the permission of the property owners... or those to whom the property owners delegate that permission.

I could go on, but I'd be repeating myself.

Galileo Blogs said...

As I believe we are at an impasse, rather than repeat myself either, I will retire from this discussion.

I have enjoyed and learned from it. My thanks to Inspector and Burgess for their participation.

Of course, if either of you feels you have an important new point to raise, by all means do so!

Anonymous said...

This has been an intense and highly informative discussion. I have a number of related points.

As I understand Inspector's argument, it is that no foreigner has the unlimited right to just waltz into America without first undergoing some administrative procedure to assess his security risk. Bypassing that procedure is a crime against the delegated right of self defense on all of America's citizens because there is someone among us who may be an objective threat. Inspector is arguing that in order for that foreigner to set foot on American soil he must undergo that administrative procedure. I think that is a concretization of what he means when he says foreigners have no right of free movement. I think Galileo disagrees with this although I'm not certain.

I once held this view strongly. Now I still favor it but I am not as certain. The reason is that I had an e-mail exchange with Dr. Binswanger where I made similar arguments as Inspector. Needless to say, Dr. Binswanger shot them all down. HB does not agree with the country club (or private corporation as he puts it) view of government. He says that is a typical conservative argument and riddled with collectivism. HB's arguments are very in line with Galileo's: rights do not stop at borders, delegated rights of self defense are not so restrictive on foreigners, etc. If Inspector is a member of HBL I suggest that he raise this subject on that forum and make his well articulated arguments. But be prepared, as he will be going up against Binswanger.

In the end, I think that this boils down to a debate over theoretical formulations which, while extremely important, are less so for the general points that both Inspector and Galileo agree on; namely that immigration is vitally important for the nation's health, non-threatening foreigners should be admitted freely and the welfare state - which is the real source of the problems - should be eliminated.

John Kim

Galileo Blogs said...

John,
Thank you for your comments.

To make my position clear, I do not accept the false alternative of "private club" on the one hand and "anyone can waltz across the border" on the other.

An administrative procedure to check the passports of foreigners entering the country is entirely consistent with the right to travel freely, in my view. Such a procedure is similar to the process of being examined through a peephole after knocking on someone's door. Verifying your identity and that you are not a threat does not interfere with your rights.

The private club idea, on the other hand, implies that whatever standard chosen by the "club members" does not violate the foreigner's rights, because they have no right of travel. Inspector explicitly stated that no such right exists in his last post. I disagree with that.

If a right to travel freely exists, then there is a rigorous standard that applies to the actions of border agents. They can only keep out foreigners who represent an objective threat of physical harm to residents of America. That's it.

Incidentally, I just don't see how the right to travel freely is any different from the other sundry rights we have that are a corollary of our right to life, such as:

*Freedom of association
*Freedom of speech
*Freedom to enter contracts
*Freedom to trade

Etc.

I would like to emphasize another point. The club idea also implies that it is okay to violate the rights of its own club members. A majority of club members can impose an arbitrary standard on the minority of club members, and it's just too bad for them. So, if the majority wants to keep out [insert name of ethnic group here], it is too bad for the minority who wants to admit them into the country.

Observe another serious conceptual deficiency of the "club" idea. A private club is a voluntary association of people and it has no authority to use force against anyone. A polity on the other hand, is an involuntary association of individuals, unless someone wishes to emigrate. Unlike a club, it has the power to use force against both its members and non club members.

A government's ability to use force is why its powers must always be circumscribed. The concept of rights helps to delineate the proper exercise of government power.

No one's rights are alienated because they cross a border.

Anonymous said...

"Observe another serious conceptual deficiency of the "club" idea. A private club is a voluntary association of people and it has no authority to use force against anyone. A polity on the other hand, is an involuntary association of individuals, unless someone wishes to emigrate. Unlike a club, it has the power to use force against both its members and non club members."

That's one of the arguments that Binswanger made. Its a good argument.

Thank you for further elaborating your position. My thinking is very unsettled on this. I need to do a lot more thinking and reading on it. For years Binswanger has argued for his version of open immigration and I always thought it was too lax especially given the dangers presented by Islam. But now I am beginning to think differently. So this discussion was greatly appreciated.

John Kim

Inspector said...

"The private club idea, on the other hand, implies that whatever standard chosen by the "club members" does not violate the foreigner's rights, because they have no right of travel."

That's correct, which is not to say that it does not violate the rights of the citizens...

"Incidentally, I just don't see how the right to travel freely is any different from the other sundry rights we have that are a corollary of our right to life, such as:

*Freedom of association
*Freedom of speech
*Freedom to enter contracts
*Freedom to trade

Etc."


When I say that one does not have "a right to travel freely," I mean it in the way that you have formulated. I believe that your formulation is the equivalent of those advocates of "free speech" who claim the right to take the private property necessary to print a newspaper or similar.

If you like, you can re-formulate my statement thusly: Your right to free travel stops at your property line. From there, there is only the permission of the property owners... or those to whom the property owners delegate that permission. Note that the meaning of my statement has not changed.

"I would like to emphasize another point. The club idea also implies that it is okay to violate the rights of its own club members."

No, that is most emphatically not true. My examples have been operating under the context that the club's explicit purpose is to protect the rights of the citizens. To make that statement, you've had to drop the context of what we're talking about here.

"So, if the majority wants to keep out [insert name of ethnic group here], it is too bad for the minority who wants to admit them into the country."

This is what I'm talking about when I voice frustration about you and others not reading what I have to say. How many times have I had to REPEAT the phrase "if a government acts improperly in this respect, it is a matter between it and its citizens." YES, I have said, bad immigration policy DOES violate rights - it's just that it's not the rights of the foreigners that are being violated.

Failure to grasp this point of mine has led to yet still more straw-manning of my position.

"A private club is a voluntary association of people and it has no authority to use force against anyone. A polity on the other hand, is an involuntary association of individuals, unless someone wishes to emigrate."

This is a false dichotomy, based on the coercive governments of today. A truly capitalist government would indeed be a voluntary association of people.

"A government's ability to use force is why its powers must always be circumscribed."

Are you suggesting that I have made an argument otherwise? If so, then you really haven't understood what I have said.

"No one's rights are alienated because they cross a border."

We've already been over this ground, and yet you're continuing to characterize my position as making that claim?

Honestly, I'm starting to find this insulting. If you can't bother to take the time to give a response that seriously considers the statements of your opponent, then don't bother responding. Perhaps you're used to dealing with idiot socialists or conservatives who can't string a few concepts together properly and don't merit serious consideration. But I am not one of those and to treat me like one is something I should not have to put up with.

You seem like a nice guy, Galileo, so I will assume that you don't realize what you've been doing to me here. But these are not the kind of conditions under which I am willing to carry out a debate.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

I can only see a re-hash of old ground here. For the record, I will stress two key points that I think you are missing. The first is the concept of rights. As I believe I have made clear, a right is simply a freedom of action in a social setting. Its main characteristic is a negative obligation on others not to interfere with it. However, because everyone has the same rights, this obligation applies to everyone. So, everyone has the obligation not to interfere with others' rights.

In the context of property rights, this means that everyone requires permission from everyone else to cross into everyone else's property.

This requirement does not change or negate one's rights. One's right doesn't end at a property line, as when you say, "Your right to free travel stops at your property line. From there, there is only the permission of the property owners"

My response to your second sentence is, "but of course." Permission to use someone else's property is an implication of the concept of rights. It in no way negates it.

The second key point I want to re-emphasize is the difference between a government and a club. The idea of a club can be an analogy to government, but its usefulness only goes so far. There is a fundamental difference between the the two: the ability to use force. A government can force people to do things; a club cannot. Because governments can use force, the rules that apply to a government will be different than those that apply to a club.

GB

Inspector said...

"I can only see a re-hash of old ground here."

Yes, as I said in large part due to the straw-manning of my position, much of which I illustrated in my previous post.

"My response to your second sentence is, "but of course." Permission to use someone else's property is an implication of the concept of rights. It in no way negates it."

If this was truly your position, then it would be impossible to use the argument of "rights" in the way that you are. You would not be able to claim that the foreigner's rights are violated when he is refused permission to enter property that is not his.

"The idea of a club can be an analogy to government, but its usefulness only goes so far."

While this statement is true, it does not mean that there are not ways in which the analogy does apply, and my use of it falls within that category.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector said:

"You would not be able to claim that the foreigner's rights are violated when he is refused permission to enter property that is not his."

The foreigner's rights *are* violated if a *government* or any other *third party* improperly prevents his entry.

Consider an example: A property owner, say an airport owner, extends permission to a foreigner to enter his property. If the foreigner does not represent a security threat and the border police prevent him from entering the airport, the rights of both parties are violated.

In both cases, their freedom of association is violated, as is the airport owner's property right and the foreigner's freedom to travel.

The freedom to travel does not imply the "freedom to trespass." That is not an implication of my statements. Entering someone's property without that property owner's permission is trespassing.

To make the point clear about authority that is delegated to government, if the government official (whether a border official or a policeman or whatever) acts improperly, he violates the rights of the offended party, in every instance.

It makes no difference whether that offended party is a foreigner or not, which gets back to my point that rights are individual attributes. The individual is sovereign above any government. Governments only get their authority from their role in protecting *individual* rights. If the government ends up violating an individual's rights, it has acted improperly. For redress, it can be sued in the courts for restitution and/or the responsible official(s) can be punished.

Inspector said...

"Consider an example: A property owner, say an airport owner, extends permission to a foreigner to enter his property. If the foreigner does not represent a security threat and the border police prevent him from entering the airport, the rights of both parties are violated.

In both cases, their freedom of association is violated, as is the airport owner's property right and the foreigner's freedom to travel."


With "Freedom of association" and "freedom of travel," you're just adding more words. The only right involved here is the right of the property owner to dispose of his property as he sees fit. That the foreigner stands to benefit from the citizen's using it as he sees fit does not necessarily mean that the foreigner's rights are involved.

This is like with the death tax: fundamentally, the right that the government violates with the inheritance tax is the right of the property owner to dispose of his property as he sees fit, by choosing his heir. It is not the heir's rights, per se, that are being violated.

Yes, he stands to lose from it. But it's not about him in that instance.

Notice that, either way, the government's immigration policies violate rights. The distinction I am making here is far more subtle than you initially thought, isn't it?

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

The rights that I mention are rights that are derivative from the central right, the right to life. Even the right to property is a derivative of the right to life.

All sorts of rights are derivative. For example, one of them is the freedom to enter contracts. That is derivative of the right to property. If a foreigner has a contract that enables him to enter someone else's property, his freedom of contract is violated if someone forcefully and unjustifiably prevents him.

Freedom of speech is a derivative of the right to life and property. Ayn Rand pointed out that freedom of speech in the absence of property rights is an impossibility.

The point is that you are free to do what you want with your life, as long as you don't interfere with others' rights. The entire range of action possible to humans constitutes our rights. All of them are fundamentally derivative from our right to life or our right to property, which itself is derivative of the right to life.

This would include the freedom of association, right of assembly, freedom of travel, etc.

In the example you give, I would say that the heir's rights are violated. A denial of property one is to receive in the future is a denial of the heir's property rights. In fact, with the death of the bequeather, I am not sure if the bequeather's rights *are* applicable at that point. It may be that upon the death of the bequeather, it is *only* the heir's rights that are applicable. (Of course, the existence of a death tax does violate the bequeather's rights while he is living, since it interferes with his right to freely dispose of his property.)

***

I would like to make another point regarding the use of someone else's property. If I use someone else's property, there is always a contractual relationship. Usually, it is unspoken and implicit, as in when I walk into a store to buy something. There is an implicit contract that I can walk about the store while I browse for something to buy and that if I am not creating havoc, I can stay in the store, etc.

Other times it is contractual, such as between a renter and a landlord.

In all cases, the contract applies to both parties and if the property owner violates his contract with the person using his property, he has violated his rights.

Your discussion of property fails to acknowledge the contractual relationship between the user of property and the property owner. Your discussion acts as if "rights" only applies to one party, the property owner. That is not true.

Galileo Blogs said...

CORRECTION:

"Other times it is contractual, such as between a renter and a landlord."

It should read:

"Other times it is explicit, such as between a renter and a landlord."

Inspector said...

"The rights that I mention are rights that are derivative from the central right, the right to life. Even the right to property is a derivative of the right to life."

Yes, but it isn't appropriate to just enumerate an endless list of "right to this" and "right to that." It's like saying that I have a "right to pizza (provided that I've paid for it)." Yes, that's true. But it's sloppy, and doubly so if you omit the part in parentheses.

"In the example you give, I would say that the heir's rights are violated."

But then you could say that his heir, who would also inherit money, has had his rights violated, and so on and so forth. But that is foolish; a potential is not an actual. If the foreigner already had a contract that permitted him entry, and had paid his end of the bargain, and a government acted improperly to terminate the contract then yes you could say that his rights were violated. But it's not about that because it never reaches that level. It's about the property owner's right to offer it in the first place. That comes first, before any consideration of the foreigner comes into play.

If you change your formulation of "Respecting an immigrant's right to live here is respecting our own right to life" just slightly, then you're really on to something: for it is precisely respecting our own rights that is the reason why our immigration policies should be rational. But this does not mean that foreigners have "a right to live here," strictly speaking.

But there are important and troublesome implications to formulating it backwards, as you have. I.E. in saying that foreigners have "a right to be here," in the exact same sense that the citizens do.

Note that under my formulation, we would have a right to stop a foreigner who had, say, a communicable disease from entering because this is in protecting the rights of the citizens. But you could not engage in such preemptive action with a citizen. He would be free to travel, although liable for the damages he causes. There could be stricter (although still necessarily rational) standards in place, because the purpose of a government is the protection of its citizens, specifically. No, it ought not violate the rights of non-citizens, but that is all derived from the fact of protecting the rights of the citizens. In other words because violating the rights of others is also a threat to the rights of the citizens, not because the government ought in the least to be concerned with the rights of foreigners as such.

Also note that under my formulation a foreigner would require a specific invitation to enter, as well as pledging to accept the jurisdiction of the government here. They couldn't just wander across the border for no reason under a claim of "right to free action."

Understand that this is part of the nature of a government as an actual agency, and not just a floating abstraction of "rights protectors."

Remember that governments and their jurisdictions are things which must actually be established. Property owners, who own the physical area of the proposed jurisdiction, must actually and voluntarily create a government by pledging (delegating) their rights to it, and thus turning over jurisdiction to it. A border would have to be established specifically so that people would understand that they were entering a jurisdiction, and agreeing to abide by it (to preserve the rule of law). The citizens, as owners of this jurisdiction and members of the "club," are free to move about in it, yes. But not people who are not members. They would have to proceed under certain conditions and controls (limited by the purpose of protecting the rights of the citizens), because the jurisdiction is not theirs.

For instance, a citizen truly does have a "right to be here." If he commits a minor crime, we can't just kick him out. But a foreigner we can and sometimes ought to.

As another example, you've agreed that it is a legitimate security concern to keep out people from Iran if we are at war with Iran. But what about just a known intellectual supporter of Jihad such as a Islamist Imam who is from England? If he was a citizen, he would have a right to be here and the limits on what we can do to stop him are strict. But not if he is a foreigner. Our government could act (objectively) to protect the citizens by denying him entry, even if he hadn't done anything that could get a citizen kicked out.

There is an important sense in which a nation is a private club. This country is, in a very real sense, ours. We are members of our country - it is responsible for protecting us and we are responsible for what it does. This is why I pointed to "innocents in war;" because it is a concept that Ayn Rand understood.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

Your reply is very thoughtful and persuasive.

I more or less agree with the several examples you give of how a government can and should act with respect to foreigners. I still do not agree with the idea that foreigners do not have rights when they are in our country, or that a government is under no obligation not to violate those rights.

The fact is, no foreigner can enter without permission of some private property owner (in a laissez faire society). However, all it would require for the foreigner to get that permission is to buy a plane ticket, and then pay for a cab ride, a hotel room, etc. Any entry by a foreigner implies permission from a domestic property owner unless the foreigner is, in fact, trespassing.

As for the obligation to obey the laws of our country, any traveler should know that he is subject to the laws of the country he enters, just as any American knows he is subject to the laws of the state he enters.

In a certain sense, although not literally, I agree with your formulation that foreigners, if they do have rights when they are here, do not have them in the same manner as we do. Foreigners are subject to expulsion or denial of entry, whereas citizens (at least in nearly any conceivable instance) are not subject to the same restrictions.

However, the reason that foreigners are subject to such governmental actions is not because they lack rights when they are here or that their rights are different or inferior to those of citizens. These actions are a legitimate retaliatory and defensive use of force by our government that is an exercise of its function to provide for our military defense and protection from criminals.

In that regard, a border guard is part policeman and part soldier. If we are at war with Iran, as an act of military self-defense, he can keep out Iranian nationals, as per the instructions of the President and/or Congress to do so. In the same manner, in this case acting like a policeman, the border guard can keep out a criminal.

By implication, such authority would extend to rounding up and kicking out foreign nationals who are here, for those reasons.

But in all cases, the foreigner does have the same rights that we do. To illustrate this point differently, if an American citizen were a spy, our government would have the right to round him up and imprison him. In a wartime situation, because it is impractical to individually identify which foreign national is a threat, it is appropriate to prevent the entry (or perhaps even kick out) all of them.

Interestingly, our Constitution even provides for such drastic action against American citizens in time of rebellion or civil war.

I think we agree on what government can do with respect to foreigners. Where we differ is in the reason why. I am troubled by the idea that one’s actual *rights* differ depending on which side of a border one stands on.

Anonymous said...

"I think we agree on what government can do with respect to foreigners. Where we differ is in the reason why. I am troubled by the idea that one’s actual *rights* differ depending on which side of a border one stands on."

I have been following this discussion since the start and I think this is a good summary. I think that you and Inspector would agree on all the practical details of dealing with foreigners. I think you are wrestling with theoretical formulations, ultimately those dealing with the nature of man's rights. And properly defining the limitations of man's rights in the context of immigration is no easy thing. And I too am uneasy with many of Inspector's formulations and I suspect many Objectivists would be as well.

John Kim

Inspector said...

"I think we agree on what government can do with respect to foreigners. Where we differ is in the reason why. I am troubled by the idea that one’s actual *rights* differ depending on which side of a border one stands on."

No, you're misunderstanding me again. It's not that the foreigner doesn't have rights or that our government isn't obliged to refrain from violating them. It's that matters of immigration are not, strictly speaking, a matter of rights. Or not their rights, anyway. It's a matter of the permission of the citizens, which is delegated in part to the government.

To be more specific, it is a matter of the fact that the citizens of the nation have agreed - for security purposes - to not invite certain people in (as determined by their government).

And John - I wouldn't substitute Galileo's formulations of my position for my position itself. He hasn't fully understood it yet.

"However, all it would require for the foreigner to get that permission is to buy a plane ticket, and then pay for a cab ride, a hotel room, etc."

I didn't say it wouldn't be easy. But the point is that anyone can't just wander across the border at will. They do actually have to prove that they have business here.

"I think we agree on what government can do with respect to foreigners. Where we differ is in the reason why. I am troubled by the idea that one’s actual *rights* differ depending on which side of a border one stands on."

It's not so troubling when you consider the particular rights in question. The right to be is derived from the right to life. The right to be in a particular place depends on who owns that place, and their permission. In this case, the property owners own the place, and they have delegated their permission in part to their government.

The idea that their "rights are different" on different sides of a border comes entirely from the way in which you have formulated "rights" to cover everything. This is why I called your formulation of rights "sloppy." Especially because you omitted the part in parentheses.

Under your definition, I could say that I have a right to be on my property, and you don't. Our "rights are different" on two "sides of a border." (my property line) This is technically true, although misleading. In the same way and for the same reason that your formulation is technically true, although misleading.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector said:

"The right to be in a particular place depends on who owns that place, and their permission. In this case, the property owners own the place, and they have delegated their permission in part to their government."

I accept this formulation (and always have). A government acts as the delegated agent of its citizens.

But in so doing, the government must adhere to certain limits. In particular, the government cannot violate the rights of individuals, whether they are citizens or not.

The question then becomes: Is a foreigner's right violated if he is arbitrarily denied entry? So, if he has permission to enter from a property owner (i.e., he bought a plane ticket), he is peaceful, and he is not from a hostile country, yet the government has barred his entry, can the foreigner demand entry because his rights have been violated?

Or, is the only party who has standing to demand redress the American who was harmed because the foreigner was denied entry, say the owner of the hotel at which the foreigner was going to stay or a business associate he was going to meet, etc.?

Inspector said...

"The question then becomes: Is a foreigner's right violated if he is arbitrarily denied entry? So, if he has permission to enter from a property owner (i.e., he bought a plane ticket), he is peaceful, and he is not from a hostile country, yet the government has barred his entry, can the foreigner demand entry because his rights have been violated?"

You're still jumping the gun - assuming that the citizen has the right to grant such permission before he has consulted with his government - which is the entity to whom he delegated that right (because it must be placed under objective control).

As I said, if things got to that point, where the foreigner was granted permission and then spent money and became involved, then you could say that his rights could be violated. But it's not a matter of that.

Primarily, it's a matter of whether the property owners are right to offer that permission in the first place. This is something that the government is delegated. Yes, the government can act improperly in this regard, but that is a matter between it and its citizens. The foreigner's rights never get involved unless there is some confusing scenario.

And if the foreigner just jumped the border, then he has violated rights (whether or not he would have been let in under a proper government) - so he is in no position to complain if the government acts to enforce the borders which it has a right to establish (derived, of course, from the rights of its citizens)

Galileo Blogs said...

"The foreigner's rights never get involved unless there is some confusing scenario."

I'll have to admit, my scenario is confusing because it shows the absurdity of saying immigrants have no rights, in my opinion. It is absurd to think that in the situation I described, only Americans would have cause against the injustice of arbitrarily denying entry to the traveler/immigrant.

"And if the foreigner just jumped the border, then he has violated rights...so he is in no position to complain if the government acts to enforce the borders."

We're not talking about this situation, are we? We're talking about whether immigrants/travelers who have been unjustly denied entry have had their rights violated.

"You're still jumping the gun - assuming that the citizen has the right to grant such permission before he has consulted with his government"

So, if the foreigner buys a plane ticket on travelocity.com, travelocity.com has to check with the government first before it sells him the ticket??

These absurd situations develop when we remove rights from a discussion of whether and when it is appropriate to restrict immigration. If a foreigner does retain his rights, including his right to travel/immigrate/move, it becomes much easier to describe a rational immigration policy.

Inspector said...

Now you're just being snarky. And begging the question again.

"So, if the foreigner buys a plane ticket on travelocity.com, travelocity.com has to check with the government first before it sells him the ticket??"

Honestly, this is a matter of details, not of philosophy. I think airports are considered international soil or something similar. The point is that it's not the government's fault if you hastily get involved in contracts that, if you had checked beforehand, were not valid. The citizens delegate their right to give permission to their government. If it's delegated to the government, they can't just willy-nilly hand it out any more than you could become a vigilante.

What this comes down to is the fact that the foreigner proceeds by permission and not by right. Permission of the citizen property-owner, or - if the citizen has delegated it - permission of the citizen's government. This is the one point that you simply have not addressed. Yes or no: can citizens delegate their right to invite foreigners to their government?

Galileo Blogs said...

Airports are private property, or should be in a laissez faire society. The example is meant to illustrate the impracticality and injustice (therefore, absurdity) of requiring Americans to ask permission from their government in order to invite someone over here. I think the example is entirely valid.

If the government is to exercise its policing function with respect to immigration, they would do it at normal border checkpoints, as they do now (and conceivably with requiring visas at foreign locations in certain instances, before traveling here). Americans should not have the prior restraint on their dealings with foreigners or anyone else that they would if they had to ask permission of their government to interact with a foreigner.

Finally, I have answered your question clearly before: Yes, citizens delegate their policing function over admission of foreigners to their government. In the same manner, they also delegate to their local police the function of protecting against criminals, and to the military the function of protecting against foreign invaders.

The part that I will add, as I have also made clear before, is that the government in taking on such functions is limited in what it can do. That limiting factor is that it cannot violate the rights of individuals, all individuals, period. There are no exceptions at any time, in any circumstance.

The only proper use of force is in retaliation as an act of defense of the rights of Americans (and residents). I see the immigration function of government as squarely falling within this realm. It really is no different fundamentally than the policing or military functions of government. In fact, it is a hybrid of those two roles.

The potential scope of action in defense of our rights is greatest for the military, and most restrained for the police, given the nature of these functions. In my opinion, immigration falls somewhere between the two, functioning much more as a policing function in peacetime, and taking on more of a military function in wartime.

In wartime, our military can bomb cities and kill civilians, if justifiably necessary for our country's self-defense. As you observed before, the responsibility for those deaths lies with the aggressor. Our military's action is justifiable then, but to do the same thing in peacetime would be a violation of rights. Whose rights? The rights of the foreigners whom we killed. Our soldiers or generals could be rightfully prosecuted in such an instance.

The same principle applies to police work (a policeman can search without a warrant if he has probable cause, but it is illegal to do so without such cause) and in immigration. Immigrants can be kept out if it is a necessary act required for our self-defense. Otherwise, their rights (and, incidentally, the rights of Americans with whom they are dealing) are violated.

It really isn't that complicated, in my opinion.

However, if you say that a foreigner's rights are not violated if immigration unjustifiably keeps him out, then all sorts of problems emerge. On what basis, then, is the authority of the immigration officials properly and morally limited?

How does the same principle apply to the military?

Inspector said...

"On what basis, then, is the authority of the immigration officials properly and morally limited?"

For the zillionth time: the rights of the citizens.

Galileo Blogs said...

I see.

I will let my last post stand as my final argument in this discussion. There is nothing else that I wish to add. Thank you for an interesting and educational discussion.

GB

Galileo Blogs said...

An interesting and thoughtful discussion of immigration can be found on the One Minute Case blog:

http://oneminute.rationalmind.net/open-immigration/

Be sure to read the comments from HeroicLife. They are good.