By Nathan Barton
A common issue which divides many Libertarians, and even those who are anarchists, is the issue of open borders.
There are quite a few points that are constantly argued over and over. There is no question that an essential natural right (God-given, if you please) belongs to all men and women to travel where they wish. But are there limits? Perhaps.
A correspondent posted this recently in her own weekly column:
Some Americans are dead set against certain immigrants coming to our country and want Pres. Trump to finish building the wall between the U. S and Mexico. Having a wall doesn’t mean “keep out”. It means “use the door” (come in legally).
Those wishing to come to the U. S. legally are welcome. It’s illegal entry, accompanied by crime, drugs, gangs, sex trafficking, etc. that most Americans are against – and rightly so.
Many libertarians will disagree with Margaret. Indeed, Mama Liberty and I discussed this issue many times, and never fully agreed.
The issue came up last month in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where a private organization has started building a half-mile of border wall to divide New and “Old” Mexico. The group has raised $22 million in private money: the first section of wall is apparently costing about a third of that.
It is an impressive wall: steel framed, and seems to be about forty feet tall.
A key aspect of this project is that this wall is being built on PRIVATE land. Of course, in virtually all of the modern Fifty States, it is illegal to build ALMOST ANYTHING on your own land without getting permission from various local (and sometimes state and federal) government agencies. Not just walls and fences but houses and barns and sheds, and even roads and ditches and parking areas – some even require that you get a governmental permission slip to put up a picnic table or a new yard light. Sunland Park is such a place: the builders and contractors applied for the necessary permits, paid the required “fees” (taxes), and were given the permission slips.
And then the mayor apparently bowed to pressure from all the various people who don’t like the idea of a wall on the border – even if it is on private land. And claimed that they didn’t have permission. Work was stopped for a few days, but last I heard, at last the permits were properly issued (or reinstated) and work has resumed.
One of the many reasons (or excuses) for opposing a border wall is that it is going to either (a) be built on public land or (b) be built on land seized by eminent domain. I agree that there are problems with both of these – especially the second. Eminent domain is a legalized form of coercion and theft – even if “fair market value” is paid for the land seized.
But these reasons do not apply to this stretch of border. The owner of that property has the same right (power) to put up a fence or wall on their property as I do to put up a fence on the property on which my home sits, in South Dakota. The fact that the boundary of their property is also the imaginary line between two different states and two different federations of states, is NOT germane. Yet they are condemned for being evil racists who hate people for various reasons.
Do I hate people because I want them to come onto my property through a gate in my fence, or into my house through a door – rather than jumping over the fence, climbing through a window, or cutting a hole in the wall? Of course not. The fence and the walls on my property exist to protect my property and my family from those who might otherwise take advantage and do us harm, physically or financially.
Put another way, MY right to travel freely does NOT include the right to walk through my neighbor’s house (without permission). For any reason. Or to drive though his private land.
A recent libertarian commentary accused the group building the wall in Sunland Park of constructing a replica of the Berlin Wall. This rather silly – indeed, stupid – remark shows the writers’ complete unwillingness to understand the situation. I believe the unwillingness is intentional and deliberate. The people who wrote that are smart enough to know the very important differences between this border wall (or the fence around my lot) and the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people INSIDE East Germany, NOT to keep the West Berliners from going into East Germany.
Not that keeping people (or animals) inside something is ALWAYS a crime or evil. New Mexico, like many Western States, however, is a “fence-out” State. That means that if you don’t want your neighbors’ cows, horses, emus, or dogs on your property, you have to fence them out. A rancher or farmer is NOT required to fence their animals in. But many do. Is it evil to do so? Building a wall or fence around a landfill or a gravel pit – even if the landfill or pit is on “public land” – to keep people out is not evil, is it?
When my children were young, the fence around my property was intended not just to keep outsiders from coming in, but to keep my children from going out, at least unsupervised. Was I evil to do that? By some current definitions, apparently I was.
There are many nuances to an uncontrolled border. Blind and total rejection of walls, fences, ditches, or other means of controlling WHERE people (and animals and vehicles) enter and exit your property – and even the common property is wrong. People who refuse to recognize property lines are wrong to do so. Failing to respect property rights is aggression: it is NOT libertarian.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.