The Bible, immigration, and private property (Part 3)

In my previous post on the topic of immigration, I ended by pointing out that the state’s mandates regarding which individuals may pass from one plot of land to another (and under what conditions) are, in fact, encroachments on the property rights of the person who owns the land. Only the rightful owner of the land can impose such restrictions; the state, as pointed out before, cannot be the rightful owner of the land according to biblical principles.

I want to wrap up this series of posts by briefly answering the following question. In the absence of state-imposed restrictions on immigration, must Christians fall in line with those calling for “open borders”? In short, no. Although there is a tendency to set the immigration issue up as a choice between sealing off the borders with a wall (and making Mexico pay for it?) and having a free-for-all with no rules whatsoever, those are not the only choices. In two excellent posts first published at in 2014, author and economist Robert P. Murphy succinctly and effectively laid out the alternative: privatize the borders.

Given what I’ve already discussed regarding property rights, privatizing the borders is the only solution to the immigration question. If a particular individual owning the land along a border with another nation-state does not want people to cross into his land then he can rightfully forbid them from doing so. Anyone who violated his exertion of control over his property would be considered a trespasser and could be dealt with accordingly. On the contrary, if he wishes to permit people from another country to come onto his land he can do so.

Murphy, at this point, anticipates an objection:

Now if they saw this particular map, the critics to my original post would say something like, “Murphy you idiot! Your proposal is tantamount to NO BORDER AT ALL! I mean, suppose Jim, Sue, Bob, et al. are generally wise and have a smart enforcement policy, but that Pam is unaware of the risks of ebola and just lets anybody onto her property! Then the whole country would be vulnerable because of that one weak link in the chain. Man you libertarians are dumb.”

Given what I’ve already discussed in this series, however, I hope that the rebuttal is obvious. Here, again, is Murphy:

You see, it’s not simply the border real estate that would be privatized; the entire country would be divided into plots and held privately. So if Pam really did have some “nutjob” policy, letting ISIS fighters or lepers or mass-murdering cocaine kingpins roam around her land freely, then Meg, Ed, Bo, Mark, and Eve could contain the problem with their own border policies. It would be as if Mexico simply had a “peninsula” that extended upward into current U.S. territory

Thus, when property rights are respected, there may be instances in which those who own property on the border with another country might exercise their rights in ways that, although others might not approve, are not themselves inherently wrong. Of course, because they are the rightful owners of the property, such approval is irrelevant in any event. For those “disapprovers” (or busybodies, if we want to use a more biblical term), the relief for their worries is found in the very same property rights: if they despise the “immigration” policy of their neighbors they may exercise their property rights accordingly by shutting off “immigration” with whomever they please.

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