2013-12-12

Simon Grey Responds

In a series of blog posts (here, here, and here), Simon Grey adds fodder to the immigration debate. The first post is a direct response to this old post of mine, so I'll tackle that one first.

Dirty Massapequans, Keep Out!
There are two points I'd like to take up with Grey. The first pertains to his conclusion:
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.
I must confess, this statement puts me at an advantage. Typically, it is the proponents of open borders immigration policy who are accused of holding an extreme position. In this case, though, Grey really is suggesting that citizens of one New York City neighborhood would be within their rights to ban the citizens of another New York City neighborhood. That's extreme.

See, when I originally made the point to which Grey responded, the purpose of my comparison was to highlight the fact that open borders just means holding the same policy toward Mexicans that we hold toward Massapequans. My intention was to suggest that if you have no problem with open borders between neighborhoods, it didn't make a lot of sense to object to open borders between neighborhoods that straddle a national border. I admit, I never dreamed that Grey would go so far as to say that he is as much a restrictionist toward Massapequans as he is toward Mexicans.

But, I feel this strengthens my position in the court of public opinion. People don't want to restrict movement between Massapequa and Levittown. That immigration restrictionism results in a world in which such a thing could take place is a good reason to support open borders.

Of course, my having said that logically proves nothing. I'm just basking in the rare glow of a PR win.

Collective Ownership
Okay, I've had my fun. Now to the meat of it. The thrust of Grey's point is that collective ownership is a valid form of property ownership. Or, more accurately, Grey thinks that if a polity holds a claim on a commons, that polity has authority to exercise ownership rights over that commons collectively.

I don't want to repeat myself too much here. I addressed this point quite thoroughly in a piece I wrote at OpenBorders.info. There are two points that are most applicable here, which I will summarize briefly:

First, Grey and I both have a claim on the commons of the US border. Grey might be within his "common right" to object to open borders, but so too am I within my "common right" to support open borders. So, whose ownership of the commons wins? Note that saying, "majority rules!" will result in some counter-intuitive conclusions about property rights that I do not necessarily think Grey would endorse without adding additional points to his argument. I covered this in my Open Borders piece. If the argument is purely that collective property rights are sufficient to restrict human migration, then Grey is endorsing far more than just immigration restriction - he's also endorsing socialism. I know he's not a socialist, so this puts him in the position of arguing for a contradiction. The contradiction must be resolved, otherwise his point can't hold.

Second, assuming the contradiction can be resolved, then all we're really talking about is whether or not the public can be persuaded against immigration restrictionism. In other words, it's not really about rights at all, it's about what the majority wants. (Again, that's assuming there is no contradiction in Simon's position or that any apparent contradiction can be resolved.)

So here I am, attempting to persuade the public against immigration restrictionism. That doesn't violate anyone's property rights. It's just a verbal argument. In light of that fact, it becomes difficult to understand what Grey's rights-based objection is. Assuming he's correct, then it's all a matter of majority rules, and my argument is that people should come on over to my side of the debate and enjoy the sun.

Conclusion
Grey concludes by outlining the burden of proof I face in my position as an open borders advocate:
Basically, Ryan Long needs to prove that the theory of collective ownership is immoral, illogical, or irrelevant.
I have argued above - and in my Open Borders piece - that the collective ownership theory is largely irrelevant. If I am correct that Grey's position is contradictory, then I have also successfully argued that it is illogical at least insofar as Grey has presented it.

I have not, however, argued that it is immoral - but I do believe that it is. So, perhaps I owe my readers a post on the immorality of collective ownership. It sounds interesting, and I thank Grey for the idea.