Lines in the sand

Many libertarians (of the type I call Reasonite libertarians) claim borders are arbitrary (see this clichéd outburst where one describes the United States border as “a damned line in the sand”), therefore protecting borders is unjust, an infringement on the rights of non-citizens to live and work wherever they want.

As Chris Roach observes, “Wouldn't many people who violate property rights--including these stalwart immigrants who trespass upon ranches in South Texas while in transit--also merely be "crossing a damned line in the sand"?"

Private property aside, if national borders are arbitrary, similar borders within nations must also be arbitrary: the ‘borders’ of national and local parks, for example. If it’s wrong to prevent illegal aliens from entering the nation to live and work, it’s similarly wrong to draw a line in the sand to prevent illegal aliens, once here, from entering, living, even working, in parks. One might argue since parks exist for the benefit of the public, they can’t be put to other uses, but by being oblivious to the fact the nation exists for the benefit of citizens, and indifferent to the burden illegal aliens place on public schools and hospitals, libertarians are in no position to do so. By their logic, prohibiting illegal aliens from opening a taco stand in the middle of your local park’s softball field, setting up a logging operation in Yellowstone, or building squatter’s shacks at the base of the Washington monument, would be arbitrary and unjust.

Which is, of course, absurd but then Reasonite libertarians aren’t the least bit reasonable.


  1. There is a difference between state owned land like a park, and the territory that the state claims. It does not own the latter. This is clear as a matter of law. However it is less clear as a matter of practical power.

    Any libertarian will agree that a property owner must make the rules for his property. This is why you can be forbidden from setting up your business in a state-owned park, be you native or illegal alien. The disagreement is whether or not the territory of a state is its property. Most libertarians believe in private property, not social ownership of this kind.


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