11 December 2013

Ought and Can

Yet, at the same time, no immigration restrictionist in his or her right mind would argue that a citizen of Levittown ought to be barred from moving, working, hanging out, or even couch-surfing in Massapequa. Even the prospect of such border enforcement seems absurd to the average immigration restrictionist. [Emphasis added.]

The problem with this response is that I never argue this sort of thing on any sort of level.  My argument is that any property owner—whether an individual owner of a single property or a collective owner of multiple properties, or even a citizen of a countryCAN bar anyone who is not an owner or citizen form using the resources they own/control.  I would argue that someone who owns a house can bar every sort of repairman from entering the property from now to the end of time if said property owner so chooses.  I will never, however, argue that he ought to do so.

Since collective ownership theory is but an extension of this general understanding of property rights, it should be clear that restrictive arguments are as much an argument of what can be done as much as what ought to be done.  From my end, I have not been particularly clear when making these sort of arguments, so I’ve undoubtedly contributed to the confusion.  I would very much argue that a citizen of Levittown can be completely banned from Massapequa, but I wouldn’t necessarily argue that said citizen ought to be banned from Massapequa.

In like manner, under the general assumptions of collective property theory, I would argue that America can prohibit Mexicans (or Asians, or Englishmen, etc.) from ever crossing over the border, but that is not the same as saying that America ought to do so.  Rather, my argument of oughtness stems more from economic and social considerations.  For example, I don’t think it particularly prudent to allow violent Mexican criminals to be allowed to freely enter America, for reasons that should be fairly obvious.  I also don’t think that it would be wise to allow 100 million Chinese workers to enter America next Tuesday and begin looking for jobs, for reasons that should likewise be obvious.

This is not all that different from saying that while I think that all homeowners should have the right to choose who to let into their homes, I also think it foolish for homeowners to allow convicted thieves unfettered access to their house and, insofar as I get to determine policy, this sort of thing will be forbidden.

So, rebutting the restrictionist argument requires explaining why collective ownership theory is morally wrong, self-contradicting on its own terms, or why it’s not adequately suited to addressing the issue.  Basically, Ryan Long needs to prove that the theory of collective ownership is immoral, illogical, or irrelevant.  If he cannot or will not, then the only real question that is left is how much and what sort of border policy is optimal for X country, and that’s a completely different question.

Note: I intended to write this a couple of months ago, but work had simply gotten in the way.  Apologies to Ryan Long for not getting to this sooner.