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The Bionic Mosquito Strikes Again!

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The Bionic Mosquito is at again, desperately trying to reconcile his support of government-controlled borders with libertarian principles. This time, in an act of real desperation, he uses my article “Wedding Cakes Have Nothing to Do With Free Speech” (which he kindly describes as “exemplary,” for which I am most appreciative), to buttress his controlled-border position. His article, “Borders and Property,” appears here and at LewRockwell.com.

It’s clear that Bionic is acting in good faith. It’s obvious that he really does believe in government-controlled borders. The problem, however, is that rather than simply acknowledge that open borders is one libertarian position that he simply cannot accept, he instead resorts to all sorts of intellectual contortions to convince himself that he really isn’t abandoning libertarianism on this particular issue.

But he is.

The following hypothetical perfectly demonstrates the fallacy of Bionic’s position. It is not a new hypothetical. I have published it several times in the past. At no time has Bionic or any other supporter of government-controlled borders addressed my hypothetical. There is a simple reason for that: They can’t. When they read the hypothetical, they know that their attempt to reconcile libertarianism and government-controlled borders is fundamentally flawed. The hypothetical puts them in the uncomfortable position of showing them that government-controlled borders cannot be reconciled with libertarianism, including the core element of the libertarian philosophy, the non-aggression principle.

After this reply to Bionic’s article is posted, I’m going to send him an email that it’s been posted, with a link to it. If he reads this article, he will naturally (again?) read the hypothetical, which means that he will have the opportunity to address it in a rejoinder. I am confident that he will decline to do so, just as every other supporter of government-controlled borders has done in the past.

Here is the hypothetical: You have two brothers, one of whom is an American citizen and the other a Mexican citizen. The American lives on a ranch in New Mexico. The Mexican brother has an adjoining ranch in Mexico. The two brothers jointly run an enormous cattle operation on their ranches.  They are business partners. While they have a fence that runs on the outside edges of their property lines, they have no fence separating their two ranches. The two ranches are simply one huge tract of land. If someone were to visit the property, there would be no way for him to know where the dividing line is because there is no fence or other sign of where the property line is. The two brothers don’t care about that.

There is an imaginary line that separates the United States from Mexico. That imaginary line is also the imaginary line that forms the ownership line between the two ranches. But you can’t see it. Well, at least you couldn’t see it under a system of open borders. A surveyor could go out onto the ranch and show where the line is. Otherwise, however, there is no way for a visitor or anyone else to know where one brother’s ranch ends and the other brother’s ranch begins.

One day, the American brother invites his Mexican brother for dinner. The American brother’s home is located about 5 miles north of the imaginary border/ranch-dividing line. The Mexican brother accepts. Under a system of open borders, the Mexican brother would simply drive his vehicle north until he reaches his brother’s house, crossing the imaginary line that divides the two ranches and the two nations.

It’s clear that there is no violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle. There is no trespass because the American brother has invited his Mexican brother onto his property. As the owner of his ranch, the American brother has the right to invite anyone he wants onto his property.

What if another Mexican citizen were to come onto the American brother’s ranch without permission? He would be violating the libertarian non-aggression principle. He would be trespassing. The American brother would have the right to forcibly remove him or use government officials to forcibly remove him.

That’s essentially the point I made in my article about the cake controversy. An owner of a home or a ranch has the right to invite anyone he wants onto his property and exclude anyone he wants, even if his reasons are what some would consider immoral (e.g., racial or religious bigotry).

Enter Bionic. On the north side of the American brother’s ranch is a state-owned highway. Bionic says that government agents should have the legal authority to come onto the American brother’s privately owned ranch from that highway, travel south until they get to the imaginary line that is the international border, and forcibly prevent the Mexican brother from coming to dinner at his American brother’s home.

How can that not be a state violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle. The American brother’s ranch belongs to him, not to the government? The minute government agents enter onto his property, they are trespassing. Trespass is a violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle.

Moreover, they minute they stand in the way of the Mexican brother and forcibly prevent him from heading to his brother’s home, they are violating the libertarian non-aggression principle.

What if the Mexican brother ignores them and heads north toward his brother’s house? The U.S. government agents will initiate force against him, arresting or even killing him if necessary.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, trespass and murder violate the libertarian non-aggression principle.

So, what really is happening with Bionic? What’s happening is this: As a personal matter, he obviously favors a country which excludes or limits foreigners. Under a system of open borders, he would have the right to exclude anyone from his home, his ranch, his business.

But here’s the kicker: Bionic obviously just automatically assumes that everyone else feels the same way he does about foreigners. It’s that assumption that leads him to fundamentally flawed logic. Here’s how: In a pure libertarian world, most everything would be privately owned, including the streets and highways. Since Bionic implicitly assumes that every private property owner would disfavor foreigners, just as he does, he implicitly concludes that in an imperfect world where the government owns the streets and highways, there is nothing wrong, from a libertarian perspective, with the government initiating force to control (or prohibit) foreigners from coming into the United States.

But what about that American brother? He wants his Mexican brother to come to his house. He doesn’t feel the same way about foreigners that Bionic does. He’s got no problem with letting his Mexican brother come onto his property. How can Bionic support the government’s initiation of force in that instance through trespass, assault, and murder?

Indeed, the same holds true for the millions of Americans today who hire immigrants, both legal and illegal. Those labor relations are entirely consensual. Those American employers obviously do not have the same anti-foreigner sentiment that Bionic has.

The same holds true for the millions of Americans who rent or sell homes to immigrants. They do so consensually and voluntarily.

The same holds true for the millions of retail establishments who sell things to foreigners. None of them has a sign that says “Foreigners are not welcome to buy from us.”

Thus, under what libertarian principles does Bionic use the government to initiate force against those employers and property owners? Their actions are entirely peaceful.

That’s not to say, of course, that any of these foreigners has the right to be hired by Bionic or even enter onto his property. He has the right to exclude any of them. If they trespass onto his property, they are violating the libertarian non-aggression principle. He has the right to exclude them or get the state to forcibly exclude them.

But what Bionic does not have the right to do, under libertarian principles, is initiate force against me for inviting foreigners onto my property. My property belongs to me, not to him and not to the government. As the owner of my property, I have the right to invite anyone I want. When Bionic initiates force against me or my invitees or uses the government to initiate such force, he is violating the libertarian non-aggression principle.

Finally, there is another point that I have made over the years that Bionic and other supporters of government-controlled borders have been unwilling (i.e., unable) to address. That’s the matter of immigration enforcement measures, which necessarily entail the initiation of force.

I’m referring to such things as highway checkpoints in the American southwest, where government agents and government dogs stop vehicles that have never crossed into Mexico and subject them to full searches and document examinations; roving Border Patrol searches of vehicles; warrantless trespasses and searches of farms and ranches near the international border; and document checks for plane travelers going from the southern part of the United States northward.

How does Bionic reconcile his implicit support of these measures with the libertarian non-aggression principle. He can’t. They all violate the libertarian non-aggression principle.

Obviously, it is difficult for some libertarians to strictly adhere to libertarian principles on certain issues. Examples include total drug legalization, the separation of school and state, the repeal (i.e, not the reform) of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the end of U.S. foreign interventionism, the dismantling of the national-security establishment, and free trade and open immigration). In such cases, isn’t it better to simply acknowledge that rather than go through all sorts of faulty and fallacious intellectual contortions to try to show otherwise?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.