Salerno Essay, Research Paper
1. In an anarcho-capitalist regime, people indeed would own their ownneighborhoods, since the streets and all other “public” services would beprivately provided. Of course, the precise size of the optimal”neighborhood” would vary according to technological circumstances andconsumer preferences. But every residential area would feature tightlyrestricted immigration just as hotels, condominium and townhouse complexes,and leisure villages do today. Thus only individuals who were specificallyinvited by the private property owners of the neighborhood to visit, shop,rent or buy would be permitted to “immigrate” to the neighborhood–and thenonly on the precise terms specified by the property owners. For example animmigrant may be permitted to purchase a residence in the neighborhood onlyon the condition that he refrain from practicing a particular religion orindulging a dietary custom that the resident-owners found offensive. Or aparticular group, defined by age, religion, race, gender, etc. or acombination thereof, may be debarred from shopping in the neighborhoodbecause its members are thought to be particularly prone to criminality. 2. Thus, as Hans Hoppe has pointed out, in a marvelously insightfulunpublished article, restricted immigration, and not “free” immigration, isthe libertarian counterpart of free trade. Both free trade and restrictedimmigration rest on mutual consent and benefit; free immigration is on allfours with restricted trade as an invasion of private property whichunilaterally benefits the immigrant or the protected industry. Contrary toSteve Horwitz’s point, the immigrant’s wishes in moving into a neighborhoodshould count for no more for the libertarian than those of U.S. Steel’s whenlobbying for a tariff. 3. This brings me to the question of the proper immigration policy for anation in which the State has appropriated ownership of streets, highways,parks, airports, etc., and has grossly restricted the freedom of associationinherent in private property through antidiscrimination laws. Thesecircumstances strengthen rather than weaken the case for restrictedimmigration. Given that streets and other publically-owned spaces arescarce resources, they have a multitude of competing uses. No one (exceptBryan Caplan) would deny that the government as de facto owner of theseresources should define and enforce rules for using them. Preventing peoplefrom defecating, copulating, bowling, erecting shooting galleries etc. inthe middle of the street is hardly a violation of libertarian principle. These activities would most likely be prohibited on privately owned streetsalso. Indeed, as pointed out above, a libertarian neighborhood would beeven more restrictive in setting rules for the use of its streets and parks,determining not only WHAT activities take place but WHO may perform them. Preventing a noncitizen from walking or driving on a town’s street is nomore illibertarian than preventing a bum from sleeping on a park bench ormandating that teenagers cannot roam city streets after midnight. Admittedly
towns or cities as the outcome of a political process may not be theoptimally-sized “neighborhood” and without the aid of monetary calculationand the competitive market process, municipal bureaucracies may not have theability or incentive to discern or formulate the most efficient rules forthe use of streets and other public areas. But this is not an argument forfree immigration any more than it is an argument for permitting an open airlatte bar to operate in the middle of the street; it is, however, anargument for privatizing streets, parks etc. by turning them over toneighborhood homeowners’ or downtown merchants’ associations, which wouldthen be free to implement rules for the use of these resources whichincreased the value of their residences and businesses. Private covenantsand deed restrictions excluding certain groups from residing in theneighborhood, if permitted, could then then be negotiated between members ofthese neighborhood associations and might further enhance the value of theirproperties. 4. Indeed the emphasis on de facto ownership reveals that immigrationpolicy should not merely or even mainly be a function of the Federalgovernment but of State and, especially, local governments. The Federalgovernment should restrict immigration through its ports and especially ontoand through the vast areas of productive land that it has expropriated fromthe States. Towns and cities, however, bear the greatest responsibility fordetermining who may use its public areas and how these may be used, sincesuch use impacts most directly on the quality of life of localtaxpayers/homeowners. Until such areas are privatized, local taxpayers havea right to expect that they are used exclusively in their interests. Likethe (basically market-created) cities of the Middle Ages, municipalitieswould post welcome signs indicating who could use the public areas and forwhat purposes. They may for example indicate that all ex-felons registerwith the local police on a daily basis, that all women cover their busts,that all male teenagers riding the subway ride only in the last two cars, orthat noncitizens be sponsored by a local business or homeowner. These areall rules that may, in principle, be enforced by a private property ownerand are not illibertarian per se. 5. I would like to conclude with a sociological point. Bryan Caplangleefully considers that a free immigration policy would lead to a situationin which “public property becomes unworkable.” Surely a nihilistic positionif one ponders it. He also refers to “Professor Rothbard of his decliningyears” and charges Rothbard and other established scholars in the Austriantradition with upholding a “contrived and disingenuous” position onimmigration designed to “please their paleoconservative friends.” Giventhat the roots of Caplan’s position lie in seventies-style libertarianism, Ithink it instantiates my point, made in another context, that this type oflibertarianism leads for many to a postmodernist intellectual posture,peculiar to the Austrian school, whose name shall remain unspoken.