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Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Immigration Analysis Failure

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Quote Originally Posted by jabowery View Post
Hans-Hermann Hoppe's critical intellectual failure in his thinking about immigration policy is embodied in the following quote from "On Free Immigration and Forced Integration":
Now, if the government excludes a person while even one domestic resident wants to admit this very person onto his property, the result is forced exclusion (a phenomenon that does not exist under private property anarchism).
In this he is presuming there is no option for what pre-Austrian-school libertarian philosopher Lysander Spooner called a "mutual insurance company" where a voluntary agreement may be reached between private owners of land that restricts what individual participants in the mutual insurance company may do with their land.

His prescription is therefore ill-founded:
The best one may hope for, even if it goes against the "nature" of a democracy and thus is not very likely to happen, is that the democratic rulers act as if they were the personal owners of the country and as if they had to decide who to include and who to exclude from their own personal property (into their very own houses).
In the absence of eliminating government, the best approximation to humane action is for democratic rulers to treat their position as officers or board members in a mutual insurance company formed by contractual agreement among the shareholders who each hold one voting share.

With this correction, other aspects of Hoppe's analysis are rendered valid since it is true that, for example in the United States treated as a company, there are by-laws that demand free internal migration of shareholders. This means the only protection the shareholders have is at the boundary of their mutually insured land holding and that, therefore, the officers and board members of the company have a fiduciary responsibility to control that boundary.
Tags: immigration


  1. curtd59's Avatar
    Although I am a registered user of these forums, I found this notice because I keep a google alert set for comments on Hoppe. (Who is rarely understood.)

    Your criticism is understandable because it relies on common presumptions, but fails on a number of counts:

    1) an analogy to a corporation is only true if citizens can, like shareholders, liquidate their shares (citizenship) and join other companies(governments), when they disagree with the management's direction. In this case, this would mean that any citizen and his land, and asets would be transferred to another government's protection. Since governments are by definition territorial monopolies, this does not happen. Furthermore, if voters each had one share, then the profits from the extraction of the market (taxation) would be distributed equally to all shareholders. However that is not the case. Not ever that I know of in history.

    2) The principle embodied in all shareholder agreements is a prohibition on involuntary transfers between shareholders, and the requirement that the management not privatize excessively profits or shareholder monies. But instead, provide shareholders with returns in both increasing price and dividends. While it has turned out that shareholders have few protections against the poor use of money within companies, and they rarely see dividends, they have retained the ability to capture price changes (up and down). When one person votes to allow immigrants into an area against the will of another, the other has a reason for objecting to it. This is an involuntary transfer from the person who supports immigration to the person who resists it. The counter argument is that by obstructing immigration, the obstructor forces an involuntary transfer of opportunity away from the advocate. However, this would only be true if there were no external costs to the transaction - impact upon culture included.

    3) Your analogy also fails precisely because of this reason: bureaucracies in government, and boards and management in companies, do not operate for the maximum benefit of shareholders. Their incentives, as Hoppe has illustrated, are quite the opposite Instead, they operate at the minimum return to shareholders and citizens that will permit them to retain their position as debt-raisers (taxation and credit markets) and rent-seekers (internal bureaucrats, government employees and elected officials.) Much of the mythology of being a shareholder is in fact mythical. All a share does is buy you an option on the increase in price, or a defense against declining currency values, because management and tax incentives are against the distribution of dividends, and dividends are against the interest of management. Neither in the corporate structure, nor the bureaucratic structure, are incentives in favor of citizens or shareholders.

    4) All arguments for open immigration are false unless the following are true:
    a) No involuntary transfers are involved, and all risk is born by the sponsor of the immigrant - or by a collection of people who insure a collection of immigrants (as you suggest), and only those in support of immigrants paid for that insurance.
    b) No immigrant has access to redistribution, only the results of his voluntary exchanges.
    c) The immigrant has no ability to vote (because that would entail an involuntary transfer of voting power from someone else.)
    d) The immigrant adopts language, norms, values and cults so that no involuntary transfer is forced via the economy of behavioral norms.

    If these four things are true, then no involuntary transfer (theft) is occurring. But they are never true.

    5) The point being that: IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR A DIVERSE POPULATION IN A DIVISION OF KNOWLEDGE AND LABOR TO POSSESS A COMMONALITY OF INTERESTS ON ENDS - ONLY ON MEANS. The market allows us to cooperate on means, if not ends. Or even on means despite competing ends. Majority rule does the opposite: it requires that some number of people experience involuntary extraction of property to suit the pleasure of others.

    6) Government has but one necessary function that cannot be accomplished by other means: to facilitate cooperation on investments in the commons that cannot be achieved without the prohibition of rent seeking and privatization of those investments. (This is a complex topic, and one which I cannot go into here without adding further complexity to an argument that is already complex enough for this forum.) Because it can outlaw consumption of those commons - which is precisely the opposte of what markets allow us to do: consume those commons investments as a means of providing incentives to create alternative products and services at lower cost or higher content, to the market. Thus creating a virtuous cycle in the market, that we loosely refer to as increasing productivity or 'growth'. But which in practice means that we can consume more at less effort than before.

    7) Libertarian arguments are almost always stated (unfortunately) as moral dictums, demands or appeals. Correctly understood, the libertarian ethic is not so much freedom, but a prohibition on involuntary transfer by any means. While it is necessary to prevent people from free riding, since free-riding is also an involuntary transfer. It is equally necessary to prevent government from extracting time, effort, opportunity or money for purposes against the will of some citizens.

    Too much, too densely for this forum. But hopefully I've help you see the fallacy of a comparison between a corporation, a state, and a market.

  2. jabowery's Avatar
    You missed the phrase "In the absence of eliminating government, the best approximation..."

    This is such a common intellectual failure mode of libertarians that it typifies their failure to have any impact on the real world.

    There are two perspectives:

    1) From where we want to be.
    2) From where we are.

    Both Hoppe and I at least kept this straight in our minds. His version of my above phrase was: "democratic rulers act as if they were the personal owners of the country".

    He is not, in this, advocating government of any kind let alone the "democracy" form he so dislikes. He's simply addressing what is a step in the right direction for "democratic rulers" -- other than, say, blowing their brains out.

    I'm doing something similar but I'm coming up with a contractual relationship that natural persons might actually sign (unlike Hoppe who assumes they'd just turn over their natural territory to one man) and then addressing the same question facing "democratic rulers" from my differing view of "where we want to be".

    Failure to distinguish between immediate steps and ultimate goals really is absolutely suicidal.

    Take, for example, the idea that there is no significant priority between opening borders and ending the welfare state -- an idea that afflicts intellectually lazy libertarians to no end and renders them utterly incapable of relating to rational people.
    Updated 03-22-2013 at 10:49 PM by jabowery
  3. curtd59's Avatar
    I've clearly antagonized you. But my purpose was to defend hoppe and illustrate that your idea (which is a commonly held one) does not solve the problem of incentives. I find Hoppe (as in this case) is poorly understood. This is partly because there is a difference between the absoluteness of his written arguments, and his predisposition to sound reasonable, humorous, and accommodating to students and lecture audiences. Worse, he has picked up from his generation of libertarians, an affinity for ridicule.

    RE: Common failure mode
    It is a common failure of all people who presume from a fragmentary argument that they understand the premise being argued, yes. But this is not limited to libertarians. It is a byproduct of 'skimming' (see Nicholas Carr). And of being human.

    (But I don't think I err in this case.)

    RE: Intellectual failure...
    This is the phrase that drew my attention. It is not a mistake on his part. You are, and you repeat throughout your argument, condemning his position, which relies upon a search for a kind of absolute truth, with a pragmatic one which seeks immediate means. This is to compare apples and oranges, and to criticize the apple grower for the color of his fruit. It is a fallacious criticism.

    I realize that you want to act with urgency. Hoppe is searching for the actual solution to the problem of government, because we do not know how to act in the shorter sense, unless we have such a framework for the longer sense. If he were to spend his time here I suspect that he would say "i'm not trying to do what you are trying to do" Because at the moment you seek a pragmatic solution, you are not seeking an ultimate truth about human nature. And that is "uninteresting."

    RE: You missed the phrase "In the absence of eliminating government, the best approximation..."
    I didn't miss it. I tried to illustrate that you were introducing competition (good) without solving the problem of bureaucracy (bad). First, Hoppe does not eliminate 'government' - an exclusive definition of property rights, and a judiciary that enforces them, is a government. It is a government of laws, not of men. A monopoly on the definition of property rights (a contract, or constitution) is in fact a government. Hoppe eliminates the state (a corporation), politicians (the layers of management teams) and bureaucracy (a labor force with a monopoly ) as an organizational model from government. By using competing insurance companies to provide services currently supplied by a monopoly, he recreates 'government' but he does so with government without monopoly, and without high(short) time preference. This has been the problem of institutions faced by human beings since we developed irrigation.

    If opportunities were traded in a measurable currency, then this would be a much easier topic to discuss.

    RE: Turn over to one man.
    He doesn't say that. Only that the private government of monarchies was superior to that of the state because the monarchs had superior incentives. His argument is that the incentives of members of a monopoly government are counter to that of the ordinary people. Again, this is not a pragmatic solution. It is a statement about the nature of incentives in different organizations.

    RE: I'm doing something similar.
    But you are not solving the problem of incentives in a bureaucracy. .... Wait... perhaps its your use of language. Yes. It could be that you mean to say the more common form which is that 'laws must apply equally to all people and not be retroactive" when you say 'act as if all shareholders had one vote'. Again, I think you are missing the point, that if you were to create competition in management you would not solve the problem that each organization would still have the incentives of a monopoly bureaucracy. Until you return to rule of law and insurance companies, you just recreate the existing problems at smaller scale.

    RE: immediate steps .... what people would actually sign.
    Two things:
    a) Hoppe's position is that there is no possible means of transition outside of total failure. The purpose of the anarchic research program is to supply people in the future with concrete answers, if and when they have an opportunity, as did American founding fathers, to implement them. I agree with the purpose of the program (I am a participant in it), but, I would agree with you that any increase in returning to our property rights under the english common law would be an improvement. For transitional strategy, Thomas Woods is the most popular advocate of transitional methods that are practical and low cost: the cheapest and easiest is to find one state that will nullify federal statues, and then for that to spread. This would allow the evolutionary development of the 50 states - some back to rule of law and property rights, and some away from them.

    b) The anarchic research program is an intellectual one, which aspires to solve the problem of institutions that support the ability of people to voluntarily cooperate whether their ends are shared or opposed, while retaining property rights and the possibility that disputes over property and contract will be resolved by predictable and peaceful means.

    Also please understand my purpose: I find that Hoppe is misunderstood more than any other libertarian philosophy. And he has solved a problem, the problem of incentives, that plato and millennia of descendants did not. So, I try to correct that misunderstanding when I find it.

  4. jabowery's Avatar
    I'm sorry your ignorance of physical anthropology renders you incapable of understanding what I mean by "natural person" in the context of the formation of any kind of artificial social order such as government by law or corporation by contract.

    Here's a good example of what I mean:

    If you look at the Y-Chromosome distribution by geography and compare it to the mtDNA Chromosome distribution by geography, you'll find confirmation of what cultural anthropologists find, which is that males are prevented from migrating by other males and gene flow is through the exchange of females. We can ignore, for the sake of this discussion, that this also applies to most other species.

    Name one libertarian, anarcho-capitalist or any related "philosopher" that has taken that kind of actual data into account when discussing "natural rights" and I'll consider taking any of you seriously.
  5. curtd59's Avatar
    1) Your description of genetic distribution is... well ... imprecise. Territory allows exploitation of resources, geographic advantage, the establishment of a status hierarchy, the establishment of norms and rules, and the creation of built capital. Males must work together to hold territory. Males try to prevent other males from entering their territory, in order to hold it, and preserve the opportunity-discount within their territory. Males try to concentrate facilitate the expression of their genes with the least compeition, however this expression is equlibrated by the relative similiarity of physical ability, within age groups, and the need to cooperate with other males in order to hold land. However, this state of affairs has ceased to be meaningful after the development of scale institutions (nationalism and the state), and industrialization, and the knowledge economy. We now see extraordinary migration, immigration and emigration. Everywhere, as people are economically detatched from extended family and geography, and seek economic opportunity not in inexpensive land, but in the concentrated population of urban markets. It appears that females are retaining their preference for in-group breeding, although between whites and asians, and between blacks and hispanics, the ability to improve social status and mate quality seems to be driving a small increase in interbreeding. (Data from dating sites is substantial now, but this also ignores the upper and lower proletarian classes, which do matter.)

    2) There is a branch of libertarianism, especially active on the internet, that relies upon argumentative natural rights. Although I am not a member of that branch.

    3) And yes, we take genetics and anthropology into account.
    (a) it is a preference. (a preference is demonstrated by action.)
    (b) we treat preferences as subjective values. (all value is subjective)
    (c) our purpose is to allow people to satisfy subjective values. (libertarians demonstrate a preference for new stimuli - like liberals do.)
    (d) superior economic productivity allows greater satisfaction of preferences. (Increased productivity decreases the cost of satisfactions)
    (e) the problem then is what institutions facilitate economic productivity, and the greatest satisfaction of subjective preferences. (institutional economics, or what we call 'political economy')
    (g) but where the satisfaction of a subjective preference does not come at the expense of another's subjective preference. (a constrained version of Pareto efficiency)
    (h) with these criteria, and the demonstrated ability of people to migrate past prior boundaries, we find the question no longer material.

    4) BTW: It is unlikely that I am sufficiently ignorant of any current social, anthropological, institutional, or economic field, to meaningfully alter such a discussion. Really. But I am somewhat amused by your repeated use of argumentative distraction. .... It might work on the amateurs now and then.

  6. jabowery's Avatar
    Sexual phenotypes aren’t even incidental to group selection—they are a costly distraction. Therefore when evolution is at the level of competing groups, sexual phenotypes are retained only to the extent that the expense of their metabolic pathways do not detract from the metabolic pathways serving group fitness. Group competition therefore erodes sex and in so doing sexual perversions appear as an intermediate stage on the path toward optimal metabolism.

    The geographically fine structure of Y-Chromosome markers in all sexual species, including humans, compared to the geographically gross structures of mtDNA of those same species shows that females are relatively free to migrate while male migration is inhibited. Observation of male behavior makes it clear that a central feature of this inhibition of male migration is individual male combat. Group selection supplants individual male combat with group combat, ie: war. As civilization imposes its ever larger scales of “Pax”, male migration is freed to a point that simply would not occur in nature.

    A humane civilization would recognize the violence this does to human sexuality—particularly in the unnatural “female choice” presented by the artificial ecology, as would a good zoologist taking the role of zoo keeper be humane to the animals under his care; but has there ever been a humane civilization?