Some theses on property, immigration, society and culture

In this post, as promised, I’m going to address the following accusation that Vera made of me in a comment late last year:

“One issue you’ve ducked time and again is this: does your locked front door offend your libertarian spirit? Do local laws that prevent squatters taking over your farm offend it as well? And if it happens not to be offended then, then why is it offended by equally firm boundaries of larger units humans organize?”

Elsewhere, Vera wrote “Millions of impoverished international migrants can be a force that can sink a region or a culture, or a whole slew of cultures or even a whole continentful of them, depending. Ask the American Indians.” And in response to my comment that poor international migrants were not the main threat to a smallholder republic she opined: “Maybe the people of Calais and surrounding areas would be able to provide another view. Not of the armchair kind…I vote for leaving the PC talking points aside, and dealing with the real issue. Effective boundaries.”

Along similar lines, except courteously, Jody wrote a longer comment from which the following excerpts hopefully give a flavor:

“I think immigrants seeking asylum should be welcome as long as they contribute and they follow our rules and customs. But what about people who move to my country and have no ability to contribute? What if they require social welfare or medical assistance to support them?….Should we welcome immigrants if they are unable to contribute to the needs of our society?….I’m liberal enough to welcome the freedom of exchange in ideas and culture but conservative enough to not want social disintegration.”

I don’t consider these to be issues I’ve ducked at all, but let me try once again to define my position on them. I’m afraid that my book-writing labors are pretty all-consuming at the moment, so I only have time here to lay down some brief theses before most likely relapsing into silence again for a while (though I have an exciting guest post coming up). The book contains a more in-depth analysis on these points.

On property

#1 I’m broadly supportive of private property rights for householders (including smallholder-householders) in the small farm future I’d like to see. This is for various reasons that I won’t dwell on here, but maybe I’ll just quote this from Robert Netting “Where land is a scarce good that can be made to yield continuously and reliably over the long term by intensive methods, rights approximating those of private ownership will develop”1. I think a good deal of future farming will involve intensive husbandry on scarce land…so why fight the inevitable?

#2 But what exactly is private property? Essentially, it’s an exclusive claim invested in a specific rights-holder to derive one or more benefits from something – in the case before us, land. The ‘one or more’ point is important. Private property usually involves a bundle of rights. My purchase of my farmland in Somerset in 2003 gave me the right to raise and sell off animals and crops from it, to engage in certain types of hunting (but not others) on it, to extract minerals in certain ways (but not others) from it, to abstract water from it (but only in certain ways and up to a certain point), to erect certain kinds of buildings but not others (such as a dwelling) on it, to apply nitrogenous fertilizer to it (but only up to a certain level) and so on.

#3 And what exactly is a private property right? It’s a relation between people in respect of a thing. In this case, that relation places a duty on other people to respect my exclusive claims over my property (for example by not stealing my livestock or placing their own upon it without my permission). It also places a duty on me to respect other people’s claims on my property, for example by not building a dwelling on it or not shooting people who happen to walk across it.

#4 By saying that I support private property rights I implicitly accept that I can enforce my rights against people who infringe them. No doubt we can argue about what such enforcement might reasonably entail, but the principle of enforcement is clear enough. Therefore, my answer to Vera’s second question – do I oppose local laws against squatting on my land – is ‘no’.

#5 Equally, in supporting private property rights and the local laws governing them I implicitly accept that others can enforce their rights in respect of my property. To generalize from that point and the preceding one, I suggest that private property rights are founded in the collective agreement of a political community. No other interpretation makes as much sense to me. Private property is not a natural or sacred right that precedes the living community within which it’s exercised, nor is it founded in my capacity to defend my property through violence, or based in any particular actions I take in respect of my property (other than ones I may have agreed when I assumed the right).

#6 Therefore, I hold my property in trust in relation to the political community that confers my rights of ownership. If the political community decides to change the terms of my rights, I may disagree with its decision but I don’t think I have good grounds for disagreeing with the principle of it deciding. Generally, I think it’s a bad idea for polities to go chopping and changing property rights, since it breeds uncertainty and resentment. But sometimes it may be necessary. It may be necessary in particular because property tends to concentrate over time in fewer and fewer hands. The people that Vera calls squatters may consider themselves rebels unfairly impoverished by property-owning monopolists and thus fighting against unjust laws. I think it behoves property-owners to consider the wider distribution of social benefits in their polity and to take care that it doesn’t grow too unequal – both from considerations of justice and from self-interest, lest the political community dissolves in violence to the benefit of the ‘squatters’ against the property-owners. Note that this possibility of ultimate violence is not the same as saying that property intrinsically begins in violence, even if it sometimes does.

On borders

#7 On to Vera’s third question, which essentially is if I’m not offended by the bounds of private property rights then why am I offended by the bounds of international borders which likewise constrain people’s rights in respect of land? The first point to make is that these two kinds of borders aren’t the same thing. The money that I paid for my land bought me an exclusive right to engage in certain kinds of activity on it. A polity that confers citizenship on an immigrant from elsewhere (or a locally-born resident who reaches the age of full citizenship rights) doesn’t confer on them an exclusive right to do anything – merely a general right to reside within its jurisdiction and to create a life and (usually) a livelihood there consonant with its laws.

#8 Still, I readily recognize the right of a polity to restrict immigration from beyond its borders if its activities don’t impinge in any significant way on the sending polities. Therefore, my answer to Vera’s third question is that I’m not intrinsically opposed to any kind of border control in any situation. But with this caveat: a polity that closes its borders to migrants shouldn’t expect other polities to receive its emigrants, or its investments, or its trade goods or any other interferences in its interests against their wellbeing if it wishes them to honour its border policies.

#9 It seems plain to me that the USA (and the UK, among other countries) fall foul of these caveats. It and the other rich countries have systematically interfered in the economies of other countries to their own benefit, deliberately dismantled health care and welfare policies in other countries in the name of supposedly efficient market restructuring through ransoming those countries’ access to global finance, engaged in geopolitical ‘great games’ that have displaced and immiserated people en masse, and disproportionately produced the greenhouse gas emissions that prompt climate refugeeism (Jason Hickel’s book The Divide is a good overview of these processes). The rich countries will try to prevent reaping the harvest of this immiseration they’ve inflicted on poorer countries by policing borders to keep out people from the latter. Those people – including ones in need of welfare services – will try to outwit them. My sympathies are with those people, until the rich countries stop fomenting the conditions that impel them to migrate. Here’s where I see the most direct parallel between property boundaries and national borders – if you want people to respect the boundaries that you construct, then it’s a good idea not to dump too much on people the other side of your boundary.

On society

#10 Still, whatever the rights and wrongs of international migration, maybe Vera and Jody are right to worry about its possibly ‘disintegrative’ effects. Then again, maybe they’re not. I’ve never concealed the fact that I think the present structure of the global political economy is unjust and unsustainable, so if it disintegrates that may be no bad thing. As I outlined in this blog post, I don’t think mass international migration is the ideal way of bringing sustainable small farm societies into being around the world, but it may be the best realistic shot we have at it. Ultimately, almost everyone in the world today is a lost child of ‘modernization’. A small farm future will require a lot more people living in the countryside and farming small plots than is the case in the rich countries today. I don’t think it necessarily matters hugely where they moved from. It ain’t where you’re from, it’s how you farm…

#11 Granted, it’s a worry how we’ll all feed ourselves in the future. On that score, the fewer people there are in any given area, the better it’ll be…at least for the people in that area. But anyone who deploys that observation as an argument against immigrants for local sustainability should, in my opinion, acknowledge these three things.

  1. ‘Sustainability’ – ie. avoiding ‘disintegration’ – in this instance is basically an argument for sustaining the high-income, high-emissions status quo. That may seem like a good idea to some folks (it doesn’t to me), but it’s probably just kicking the can down the road to future crisis.
  2. It’s also basically an argument from self-interest – ‘me first for the lifeboat, and screw you’. I think people who make the argument need to own that. They need to be able to look a climate change or other kind of refugee in the eye and say “I don’t want you in my country because it suits me to exclude you. I consider my existing lifestyle which I believe you threaten more important than your wellbeing, and since I have a powerful government at my back I win and you lose”.
  3. Projections for the number of climate change refugees in the coming century vary from about 200 million to 1 billion. That’s a lot of people. The places that want to exclude them will need a massive military mobilization to keep them out that will dwarf the $20 billion the US is currently spending on border enforcement. Such a mobilization will probably have ‘disintegrative’ effects of its own on civil society in the excluding country – political polarization, budgets skewed away from human services to military expenditure, gated communities, martial law (see various analyses along these lines in Todd Miller’s book, Storming the Wall2). It will lead to ‘astronomical’ popular anger against the excluding countries among the excluded (, p.117). And it probably won’t succeed ultimately in excluding them.

#12 Therefore it’s hard to know where self-interest ultimately lies. Identifying yourself with a polity that uses everything in its power, including deadly force, to exclude certain kinds of people may not go well for you if the polity ultimately fails to exclude those people, which is probable. Conversely, failing to identify yourself with such a polity may not go well for you if its politics trend increasingly towards extremist isolationism and nativism, which is also probable. Choices, choices. What tips it for me is that I’d like to prevent extremist isolationism and nativism from taking hold. Also, I consider justice a serious matter, not a “PC talking point”. And I think the justice case for accommodating climate refugees and others immiserated by the global political economy is strong.

#13 Consider this also – when Jody writes “Should we welcome immigrants if they are unable to contribute to the needs of our society?” what are the grounds for being so confident around that ‘our’? As the aforementioned Todd Miller points out, a couple of generations back the main climate refugees in the USA were US citizens fleeing the Dustbowl, who were met with indifference, violence and semi-militarized internal borders by other US citizens. What’s the betting that won’t happen again in the face of droughts, supercharged hurricanes and the like? What line does an enthusiast for self-interested migrant control take when they stop being one of the ‘we’ and become one of the ‘them’, even in their own country?

#14 I’ve long identified with forms of populist politics, but I’ve been accused of not being a proper populist on the grounds of not identifying with nationalism and anti-immigration policies. True, I’m not that kind of populist. I’m the kind of populist who thinks that for the most part the people who control the organs of the centralized state and articulate notions of the nation in defence of it aren’t motivated by concern for ordinary people within or without state borders. Think about the Dustbowl. Or the 2008 crash. Or Jacob Rees-Mogg. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.

#15 And this, I think, will be the great political conflict of the 21st century. Do you identify with the nation (which is basically just the centralized modernist-capitalist state with its prettiest dress on), or do you identify with the people? How that plays out will determine a lot of things. For my part, I think Vera’s ‘effective boundaries’ will come at a financial, biological and moral cost to people on both sides of those boundaries which is unpayable and will indeed sink whole continents.

#16 Those who identify with the nation typically demonize people from other nations, or even from their own nation, when it suits centralized power. The Dustbowl migrants were dismissed by the LAPD Deputy Chief as a “flood of criminals”. Vera implies, I think, that the several thousand residents of ‘The Jungle’ migrant camp were a threat to local residents in nearby Calais, and that this somehow constitutes evidence for the dangers of allowing global migration. Well, I never went to The Jungle, though I know people who did and returned unscathed. I’ve also had a hand in employing on our farm refugees who spent time at that camp. They were not remotely threatening, and have now found steady employment locally. My reading of the evidence leads me to the view that the camp’s residents were more threatened than threatening, but I daresay penniless, desperate and demonized people confined at borders sometimes do bad stuff: don’t, however, mistake the contingent threats and degradations of the border for the inherent threats and degradations of the people who are waiting at it. As Kapka Kassabova documents at length in her book on the communist and post-communist borderlands of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, the people who benefit most from borders are usually the governments that invest in them, while they bring endless trouble for the people that live around them, permanently or temporarily3.

#17 The food production modelling I’ve undertaken in things like my ‘Peasant’s Republic of Wessex’ series suggests to me that there are large margins available for sustainable food production relative to current populations. True, climate change and other hazards put a question mark around that longer-term. But that doesn’t seem to be the main motivating factor behind Vera and Jody’s misgivings. Jody seems mostly concerned about funding burdens and migrants not pulling their weight – but the funding burden runs from the countries of origin to the countries of destination, which is what’s impelling the migration in the first place, and migrant selection effects are such that migrants on average invariably pull their weight more than sedants. Vera’s concerns seem to be actuated more by a metaphysical belief in the general importance of boundaries that I don’t share. I’m not saying there’s never a case for boundaries or limits. On the contrary. But just because there’s a case for boundaries in general doesn’t mean that there’s a case for any given one – as I see it, the case is always specific, and almost always contestable, since social boundaries are usually organized to suit some people’s interests against other people’s interests, however much the first group try to naturalize or universalize their case. Or to put it another way, the case for limits has its limits.

On Culture

#18 It’s not ‘culture’ that’s sunk by migration. Culture is inherently hybrid and syncretic. But the people who are the bearers of culture can be sunk if they’re defined out of the political community. That’s what largely happened to Native Americans, eventually. It’s what may happen to climate refugees and other kinds of refugees who are criminalized and demonized on their migrant journeys. Frankly, I think Vera’s parallel between Native Americans threatened by European migrants and contemporary Americans threatened by migrants gets it exactly upside down – the threat runs from the rich destination countries to the impoverished international migrants. But ultimately I think the culture of the rich countries will have to change – less capitalist-culture, less fossil-fuel-culture, more agri-culture. As I said before, the best practical hope I see for that, tenuous though it is, is through disturbances caused proximally by large-scale migration and fundamentally by the insolvable contradictions of the global capitalist economy.

On Implementation

#19 But for those who want to chart another path, I’d suggest ditching high-income urban life and extravagant fossil fuel use immediately in favour of rural subsistence farming. Such societies would be less attractive destinations for migrants and may even stave off the global environmental bads that are impelling mass migration. Win-win. A world of such societies would look more like the one I construed at the start of Thesis #8 where I suggested that they could legitimately erect barriers to people’s freedom of movement. The irony is that I don’t think they’d have to, because in such a world not many people would feel the necessity of moving far from where they originated. I recall one commentator on sneering that my projected ‘Peasant’s Republic’ would require a big wall to be built around it. But on the contrary, it seems to be the capitalist republics and not the peasant ones that are most in need of their ‘big, beautiful walls’.

#20 What a land reform would look like in the USA or the UK that could deliver a small farm future out of present patterns of migration and sedentism is a debate for another day. It would be unprecedented in its geopolitics, but not in its basic structure. Michael Lipton’s book Land Reform in Developing Countries: Property Rights and Property Wrongs4 lays out in exhaustive detail the various policy instruments that have been tried, often successfully – some more appealing than others. I suggest that it should be reissued, retitled Land Reform in Countries, debated publicly to identify the most appealing policies from place to place, and these should then be implemented before some of the less appealing ones get implemented by default.

#21 But in all honesty I think Vera’s vision for the future will likely hold more sway than mine. There’ll be lots of people ‘defending their culture’, lots of sacrifices by the many for the ‘good of the nation’ whose benefits will curiously accrue mainly to the few, lots more death and misery in the borderlands, lots more political polarization and lots more gated communities at various geographic levels that may become as oppressive to the people within them as without. I think a great deal of this is avoidable, and a great deal of it will stem from essentially self-fulfilling prophecies about the need for ‘effective boundaries’ against threats from without. So I plan to do what I can from my armchair, from my keyboard, from my farm, from my politics and from my humanity to work towards different outcomes. Sadly, I fear that probably won’t be anything like enough.


  1. R. Netting. 1993. Smallholders, Householders. Stanford UP, p.158.
  2. T. Miller. 2017. Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security. City Lights.
  3. K. Kassabova. 2018. Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe. Granta.
  4. M. Lipton. 2009. Land Reform in Developing Countries: Property Rights and Property Wrongs. Routledge.

74 thoughts on “Some theses on property, immigration, society and culture

  1. Erudite as ever. Nicely states your case. But you’ve already ceded the field… (frowns and confusions).

    I’m not a big fan of Jason Hickel’s effort The Divide… the overall thesis might be defendable, but I put it down after more hyperbole than I could stand. His disregard for simple logic didn’t help win me over either. Still – the concept that poorer corners of the planet have been taken advantage of by the richer corners plays well enough. But my read of history (and no link to a French publication here) suggests that one might conflate riches with power and therefore it has always been the case… those with power (riches) make the rules and enforce them; sometimes very brutally. To your point in the middle of thesis #18… that in North America, European settlers displaced the First Peoples (by trickery, deceit, or by violence) and now stand to repel any incursion on this same territory – I agree with you. But this is still the success of power or riches against another. Mind you I’m not suggesting this is the best way forward; but nature tends toward adjudicating resource conflicts by force in the final analysis – once other more peaceful attempts fail. Our feeble attempts to thwart nature in this regard have followed us up to the present time. Perhaps we might latch onto moments in our history where peace and altruism have succeeded and celebrate them even more.

    The Dust Bowl history of the central U.S. is a fascinating choice for an example of climate disruption and migration. I have no first hand knowledge of the stories of those who left the plains, but having lived in Nebraska over 30 years ago and soaked up stories from the descendants of those who stuck it out, I’ve come away with a different impression. It was an extremely difficult time. Still today the landscape of the plains bears marks of what mankind has done to prevent recurrence. One might call these scars, but for me the planted windbreaks, irrigation ditches, and circular patterns on the ground owing to center pivot irrigation systems are merely outsized examples of niche construction. Beavers would be impressed.

    Is niche construction on the plains – in response to the violence of Nature (which it must be acknowledged said violence came about as Nature’s response to a first and feeble attempt at niche construction) – is this form of human habitation a rebuke of Nature, a pushback? I don’t think so. The present landscape seems to me a sort of compromise, a peace treaty if you will. Will current land management remain static as climate changes?? Doubtful. It has shown modification in response to global political situations, so as climate changes I expect our neighbors on the plains will tweak their management habits. Some will fail and move on, others will succeed and remain. Still others will ruminate on the evidence and write about it.

  2. Entirely missing is the notion of collective actions, which is a fairly typical western bias that would seem laughable to many tribal cultures.

    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People guarantees their right to self-governance, by means they choose, which runs afoul of colonial laws such as Canadas obsolete and racist Indian Act, which decrees that the One True Form Of Governance™ is the popular vote, to the extent that politicians and developers pour lavish rewards on elected tribal councils that represent a tiny portion of indigenous people, then they seem surprised when the traditional indigenous governance (typically based on some form of elder-led consensus) says, “NO!”

    I think our particular form of “ownership,” centred around the individual, holds the roots of many of our ills. It tends to favour and encourage voting, which divides people into “winners” and “losers.” (“Voting” has been called “Two wolves and a sheep, deciding what’s for dinner,” but if that doesn’t strike home, how about three children and their parents, voting on having ice cream for supper?) It lends itself well to hierarchies, and “big man” governments.

    Individualism can be seen as an artifact of high-energy living. In ecology, high-energy biomes tend to favour competition and individuals, versus low-energy biomes, which tend to favour cooperation and collective action. In the high-energy tropics (for example), a half-dozen or more raptors chase several dozen small creatures, which feast off the stored sunlight of thousands of plant species. In alpine and arctic biomes, however, you’ll see perhaps two birds of prey chasing a few small creatures, subsisting on perhaps a dozen forms of basic productivity — and even then, the Rough Legged Hawk and the Snowy Owl “cooperate” by dividing up the spoils temporally, by day and night! Likewise, herds of obligate herbivores act collectively on their energy-poor diet, while a few solitary big felines hunt their energy-rich bodies individually.

    It can follow from this that, in a low-energy future, there will be considerable advantages to small collectives, as opposed to individual land owners. A collective can mobilize larger labour forces, to either grow food, or to defend their turf. A collective is more likely to make good decisions over an individual. Poor behaviour is dealt more effectively in a collective, whereas a renegade individual can bring ruin to large numbers of other individuals. (Take the US, for example. Please!)

    You and I have had at this issue before, and I came away feeling dismissed — it’s your blog, after all.

    Do you see any future in collective actions in the rich industrial nations? Or are we all doomed by our strongly individualistic tendencies?

    • I don’t see the contradiction between having collectives and voting? In the village collectives and syndicates of anarchist Civil War Spain, for example, decisions were made by majority vote within the collective (see for example “The CNT in the Spanish Revolution” by José Peirats).

      Also, in practice, in every organization I’ve been in that takes decisions by voting, it’s never just pure voting. There’s discussion and trying to find a common ground, and also many decisions are in fact taken in consensus. The voting is just one aspect of decision-making.

      This is also the thing that irritates me with David Graeber’s “Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology” (though I like other parts of it). I don’t think that voting is the only good way of making decisions or that it should be used in every context, but these descriptions of voting as necessarily characterized by individualism and competition just don’t jive with my lived experience of the method.

  3. It hadn’t occurred to me when I entered the comment above, but there is an element of private property that we have only occasionally broached here at SFF and which I feel could do with more inspection and comment… and that is the issue of absentee land holding.

    This has a long history, likely longer than recorded history. I am not flush with examples of good and poor systems of land use under ancient human societies. Modern examples, and particularly examples in the heartland of the US though are very familiar to me. Perhaps the most common system is still some sort of rent* where the landlord is a previous worker of the land (or his/her descendant). Often times the tenant is still family – as where a large family is left an acreage too small to support all offspring, and the scion that remains on the farm pays rent to sibs per their share of the estate. In arrangements like these there is typically some invested interest and/or care for the land by the absentee owner(s). Over time, however, it seems there is more distance from owner to renter. Offspring moving to distant cities and losing their attachment to the land – and their coinciding interest and/or care. And another relatively new form of agricultural land management concerns REITs (real estate investment trusts) whereby land is bought up by distant investors for the purpose of diversifying investment portfolios. This pushes Wendell Berry’s thesis about the Unsettling of America (wherein Earl Butz is derided for his “Get big or get out” mantra) to a whole other level: Get bigger or go to Wall Street. Capital might be able to discern a put or a call for a commodity contract, but noticing the disappearance of birds from the agrarian landscape likely isn’t in too many cash flow models.

    Imagine another approach – land can only be “owned” as private property if you live on said land and make your livelihood from it. This immediately makes me cringe, but I have to admit, my difficulties with such a system are not easily defended. Wall Street may have many defenders in the wider world, but I struggle to imagine it has much to offer in the way of sustaining the working lands we depend upon.

    * I use ‘rent’ here in its most sweeping sense – cash rent, crop shares of various types, leases, etc.

  4. Jan – I’m sorry if you felt dismissed by my previous comments. From this side of the boundary, I’d say that, as here, you have quite a forthright way of expressing yourself which invites similar by response, but it’s not my intention to be dismissive. Regarding your main points, I’d respond firstly be saying that as I see it private property rights ARE an example of collective action (points #5 & #6) – and following from the Netting quotation under point #1, I’d argue that in situations of intensive husbandry on scarce land, as will be common globally in the future, private property will be a widespread solution. Netting’s point is that the type of land use strongly conditions the property regimen: you find private property rights in ‘tribal’ cultures too – it’s a mistake to construct a strong duality of western individualism vs tribal collectivism. I disagree with the way you frame private property as the root of many of our ills…of voting, ‘big man’ government etc. In fact, I see it to the contrary as a safeguard against those ills. I haven’t gone into that in this post, which has the more limited aim of disputing Vera’s view that there’s a contradiction between supporting both private property rights and pro-immigration policies…but I talk about it in my forthcoming book, and to some extent in previous posts here on commons and republicanism, which is distinct from individualism. So I’d have to reframe your question on whether I see a future for collective actions in the rich nations essentially as one about whether I see a future for commons, shared ownership models etc. To which my answer would be yes, but I think this is over-stressed in a good deal of present writing on alternative agriculture & alternative economics – the more important thing is to get the collective action around private property rights better sorted. Commons come into play more with extensive land uses, which I think will be less important than intensive ones. I’m not trying to suggest that societies more oriented to common property regimens should be privatized, but I see the private property regimen in the rich countries as quite amenable to a smallholder republicanism, so I don’t see the need for fundamental change in this respect. More problematic is the potential to monetize private property as debt collateral – there, I think fundamental change certainly is needed.

    Clem – to your point on power making the rules, I agree – but I’d add that power accommodates itself to other or lesser power in numerous ways, as is evident from the long history of interactions, treaty-making and breaking, recrimination and accommodation between Europeans and First Peoples. We approach naked and possibly genocidal power only when the lesser power is excluded altogether from membership in the political community, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind – not least in contemporary debates over immigration. On the Dustbowl, I agree with you that people responded to it with niche construction and will likewise respond to future environmental pressures, but I don’t think that permits us to dismiss the shorter-term socioeconomic suffering inflicted by citizens on other citizens…which in other circumstances may have been longer-term. On Hickel, likewise and inevitably I don’t agree with everything he writes, but I think he generally does a good job of pointing up the orchestration of global inequality and the ways we often try to hide it. If there are specific points of his analysis you question, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…actually, I think you did mention some previously…I’ll have to check back. On absentee landlordism – yes indeed. Its removal doesn’t make me cringe at all (see debt collateral point above), even though I’ve done a share of it myself.

    Elin – yes agreed. There’s voting and voting. And it’s crucial to note that democracy is not reducible to voting.

  5. My first thought is that why are the immigrants given the use of social security / healthcare immediately upon entry , when th UK system was set up in 1947 every worker had sixpence ( 2.5p ) taken from their pay and paid for a calender year before claiming to set the system up , that was a considerable amount of of money when the U.K. farm laborer was paid two pounds seventeen and sixpence (2.75 pounds ) for fifty hours . In the USA as a legal immigrant you must have ten quarters of SS payments before you are eligible for anything . If I come to the uk and need medical assistance I will be presented with a bill before leaving the facility , uk citizens coming this way are advised to get holiday insurance , why are those illegally entering the country given services that legal travelers are not ? Too much largess will bankrupt the system as it is doing in the USA , the budget deficits run by western countries suggest we are allready on borrowed time .
    The permit thing comes down to population pressure and government addiction to control and money , here in rural TX there is one permit needed , that is that your septic system does not pollute you your neighbour , you can do anything else you want on your own property .

  6. ” Projections for the number of climate change refugees in the coming century vary from about 200 million to 1 billion. That’s a lot of people.”
    What makes anyone think that the west will not be affected by global CC ? Another 1930′ s style dust bowl will leave the USA hungry , last years UK summer left supermarkets scrambling for supplies , the previous winter left European fruit producers in the poo with millions of acres blasted by frost , coming to the west is absolutely NO guarantee of a full belly . I have seen NOTHING in the CC press releases stating where there will be usable agricultural land , IF the desert south west moves north and the sahara jumps the med them the west it totally in the crap .

  7. Glad to see the sqeaky wheel finally got some grease! 🙂 It would be awesome good if you some day write an equally detailed explanation of your view of populism.

    It looks like we have a broad agreement regarding “property rights” — and I too think they come from societal political agreement.What troubles me is what happens when that societal agreement, fought for and won over centuries in Europe, is under attack by greater and greater numbers of migrants who look at the matter differently. A culture too is a boundary. Those who trample it in the dust cut off the branch they are sitting on.

    Which impinges on Jody’s concerns regarding social disintegration.

    “Still, I readily recognize the right of a polity to restrict immigration from beyond its borders if its activities don’t impinge in any significant way on the sending polities.”

    And how exactly do you propose this is accomplished, this side of heaven?

    “a polity that closes its borders to migrants shouldn’t expect other polities to receive its emigrants”

    I am the beneficiary of the fact that the west that once existed did not apply this draconian caveat to communism’s refugees.

    Your para 9 seems to me entirely one-sided. One reason that Africa’s population is exploding is that the west sent vast amounts of medical, water and other experts and help as well as food aid. Much meddling, and some of it was, if not good, at least it had good intentions behind it. Unless, of course, you include all those activities too as “fomenting.” And the peoples flooding here and there hold no responsibility in your world for the conditions they are fleeing from?

    I grow impatient: anyone can peruse the video of marbles and populations to see where we are heading with the population question. They cannot be absorbed by the rich world without the rich world collapsing into rubble, and then what? Where will the needy go then? In whose interest is it to destroy those who are doing well, and with what short sight?

    You have spoken before about your sympathies being on the side of disintegration. Well, then, thank you for making it even plainer. This is where we part company. I do believe, along with you, that the west has major issues to solve, and wouldn’t even mind a few heads rolling. But social disintegration means also disintegration of the orderly rights to land that keep you in clover. Which strangely you do not seem to take into account. And I much prefer evolution to revolution.

    When I spoke about PC talking points, I meant the fact that there are all sorts of migrants out there, and you like to speak only of the … er, one side of the issue. What about the migrants who come to conquer, and whose laws will turn the likes of you into a serf? What about the migrants who come to rob and parasitize and create mayhem? What about the migrants who bring their mafias with them and play a whole other game? I would welcome a more frank approach, but you’ve suggested in the past that would be, uh, phobic.

    But perhaps the whole screed is really out to get me off your blog. And in that, I think you have succeeded. You do not see into my head, and do not know what future I would prefer, but you have no scruples about turning it into a caricature. I find that abusive. So long, Chris!

    • My first reaction would be, “Good riddance”, especially after Chris’ temperate and well reasoned exploration of the concepts of private property and migration. I think Chris has demonstrated a great deal of patience, perhaps far more than I would have. I think he is extremely tolerant of dissent, asking only that it be well argued. What more can we ask of any blog?

      On the other hand, I did like your “Leaving Babylon” blog and the people who commented there. It is regrettable that you cannot show to Chris the patience you showed to them. So let me amend my response to “Good luck and (as if I were not an atheist) God bless”.

      • Joe makes some excellent points here, IMHO.

        I might add a question to Vera about the logic of first acknowledging your benefit from a Western polity accepting refugees from communism and then just a few sentences later linking to the gumball video. If understand Roy Beck’s philosophy in the video, he would have had you remain where you were born… tough it out. So what am I missing here? Are you in a place where you would turn to the next in line and say – “I got here, but you’re too late – stay where you were born” ?

        Perhaps there is a fundamental distinction being left unsaid…. there are different sorts of immigrants. Good and evil. Naturally we would like to avoid the evil immigrant, but we already have good and evil neighbors. And in most societies there is already a mechanism to deal with evil neighbors. Even in Texas (thank you Daz).

        • Clem. As I undestand the vid, he says you can’t solve the population problem by opening up the west to all comers.

          I came legally (re western laws). I object to those who say, F the laws, I wanna be in, and hire a coyote or a people smuggler. Please don’t join Chris is turning my views into caricatures.

  8. In relation to Vera’s la(te)st, I think most of what I’ve written will stand for itself but I’d just like to unpack a couple of points, starting with this paragraph of hers:

    “You have spoken before about your sympathies being on the side of disintegration. Well, then, thank you for making it even plainer. This is where we part company. I do believe, along with you, that the west has major issues to solve, and wouldn’t even mind a few heads rolling. But social disintegration means also disintegration of the orderly rights to land that keep you in clover. Which strangely you do not seem to take into account. And I much prefer evolution to revolution.”

    I trust that a good faith interpretation of what I’ve written above and elsewhere should be clear that I also prefer evolution to revolution, and that I’m not arguing for total disintegration just for the sake of starting from a ground zero – the point rather is that in the current structuring of the global political economy I see large-scale refugeeism as one of the most likely forces for bringing about congenial and sustainable polities. Not that I think it’s all that likely, or that it’s a desirable state of affairs. But to press Vera’s evolution metaphor, there are times when a selective pressure emerges, works on the variability within a species and ultimately pushes in one direction rather than another. I suspect something like this may happen in the years to come, with some of the presently rich countries trying to defend their status quos with all available means, and other countries restructuring themselves in lower energy/ruralizing directions as a result of new alignments of numerous forces, including refugeeism. Obviously, I prefer the latter course politically. I think it may also turn out to be the favored ‘evolutionary’ direction…but of course I can’t be sure.

    And then there’s this:

    “Your para 9 seems to me entirely one-sided. One reason that Africa’s population is exploding is that the west sent vast amounts of medical, water and other experts and help as well as food aid.”

    This is when I need Jane O’Sullivan to pop up and announce that, au contraire, the explosion is because the west hasn’t been meddling nearly enough. Actually, no – let’s not go there. The aforementioned Jason Hickel has a little go at totting up the net flow of fiscal resources into and out of sub-Saharan Africa. No prizes for guessing that he imputes a fat negative to the equation, but if anyone has any data on this they’d care to share with me I’d be delighted to see it. Meanwhile, it strikes me that if you allow capital but not labor almost total freedom of movement then you can pretty much predict present patterns of global migration and income inequality with a bit of elementary economic and political theory…

    @Joe, thanks for your comment – appreciated.

    @Daz, agreed the lifeboat may not be where folks think it is. I recall a documentary of the Bosnian war with refugees fleeing in both directions along the same road according to which rumor they’d heard. A horrific situation to be in, but perhaps a metaphor for our times. But at the moment I think the global north is a fair bet. On welfarism, yes one aspect of the issue is that citizenship is rather an all or nothing thing – hence the likes of Branko Milanovic arguing for graduated levels of it as a pragmatic way of trying to level the stark inequalities delivered by the fortunes or misfortunes of one’s birth citizenship. No doubt the situation is compounded by increasing fiscal constraint in welfare services and the tendency for them to become a stigmatized safety net of last resort. I’m interested in views on this.

    • But at the moment I think the global north is a fair bet

      Perhaps for the immediate moment. The lifeboat in the global north appears to have fewer leaks and perhaps some space for another body or two – particularly in comparison to other boats on the water.

      Why fewer leaks? Here the technophile in me wants to brave the observation that there’s been a bit of success in the global north at making things. My own approach might be to transfer technologies – appropriate technologies – and to facilitate the search for new and better technologies (as it is unlikely that any and every solution in the north will transfer to the south).

      But in capitalism’s playbook the owners of technology are not only discouraged from sharing technology, they seem to be actively prohibited (in the sense that one easily argues for IP protection so that future investment in research can be funded). I find myself personally in this conundrum. In order to extract some value from the research work I participate in we need to have some IP protection (at least in the present moment).

      Before that line of thinking gets too far ‘into the weeds’, let me return to the lifeboat metaphor. Say the global south has too few lifeboats and those in their stock tend to be frail and leaky. Take some of Roy Beck’s gum balls, chew em up and stick em into the holes – where they are. Make the folks there solve their own problems (donating gum balls from the north as an interference in their world to be debated by Jane O’Sullivan and Vera… I’d watch that).

      But where is the path to share better boat building technology? And is this a longer term mistake? Perhaps drowning is the only solution? I just can’t get to this latter logic.

      There are resources all over the planet. A most remarkable resource is the network of cells between human ears. Sure, some of these brains are borne on evil, greedy, stems. But so long as a greater number flourish on caring souls, on folks willing to witness the world around them and work toward solutions to benefit more than their own self – to foster altruism – then I have hope.

      • Perhaps the global north is seen as a better bet is because the news concentrates on the south , Canada’s wheat lands took a huge hit last summer , it snowed at harvest time , media coverage ? Farming press only !

  9. There are resources all over the planet. A most remarkable resource is the network of cells between human ears.

    I hear this a lot.

    And yet, those cells still require some 2,000 calories a day to function. Starving people don’t tend to think very well.

    And not only that, but those brain cells you laud have become more specialized, and less general. We have become as dependent on extrinsic knowledge as we have on fossil sunlight. Our “innovation” and “problem solving” skills appear to be more suited to making iThingies™ and elaborate Super Bowl Half-Time extravaganzas then they are to providing basic shelter and food directly from the natural world.

    There is also reptile-brain version of confirmation bias, that as long as we are doing well, we will continue to do well. Chris’s individualistic private-property small holding is the answer, since it has been around in Europe for centuries. Clem’s notion that humans are the smartest generalists will continue, since it has for the past few millennia. But there is evidence that neither pattern dominated over some 98% of the history of Homo sapiens.

    The medulla oblongata is a harsh master. It didn’t get the dinosaurs through through their existential crisis.

    My bet is that Panarchy is the long-term master, that the natural world has caught up with K-selected species like humanity, and that r-selected species (cockroaches, rats, Canada geese) shall inherit the Earth… what’s left of it.

    • Humans are one of the least specialized life forms on the planet , from the frozen north to extreme deserts humans find a way to live there .

    • And yet, those cells still require some 2,000 calories a day to function. Starving people don’t tend to think very well.

      Ah, but hungry people tend to think very well – with much focus and immediate agency. Note too that hunger precedes starvation. Has for all time – and for all 100% of the history of our species. Indeed a little hunger can be just the tonic to motivate those who think the world will always drop necessities in their lap.

      As for specialized vs generalized trend you’ve pointed to – I don’t see it as all that bleak. There really is some pretty fancy specialization going on. And it gets the most attention. Not much glitz in agrarian pursuits. But there are still folks taking full advantage of a few well nourished neurons in pursuit of answers with practical application.

      One beer ad suggests to the audience – “stay thirsty my friend”… to which I’d like to append: “stay hungry my friend”.

  10. accepting refugees from communism

    Woa, that’s a huge jump!

    One can hardly characterize the Assad regime as “communist.” There is ample evidence that the whole Syrian refugee issue is due to climate change: Syrian farmers have suffered from historical draught, and moved into cities that could not support them.

    So it could be argued that the growing tide of climate and resource refugees are an artifact of consumptive capitalism, or the very notion of private ownership espoused in this blog!

    It could be argued. I won’t go so far, seeing both large-scale communism and large-scale capitalism as two sides of the same resource-destroying coin.

    US Vice President Pence has recently declared the “failure” of socialism and the “triumph” of “freedom.” It used to be just evil, godless communism that was the enemy, but now it’s Sweden and similar nations who choose to jointly manage their precious resources for the common good.

    So, we’ve got “freedom” now… but that doesn’t include the freedom to choose a socialist way of life.

    • There is also ample evidence that the Syria problem started 18 months after it stoped exporting oil and could no longer buy food on the world market .

    • “It could be argued. I won’t go so far, seeing both large-scale communism and large-scale capitalism as two sides of the same resource-destroying coin.”

      I would. The difference is that in this system, they are (not yet) sending your relatives to the uranium mines or hanging them because some of their speech is … inconvenient to the regime. I consider it a major advantage and a key to why people are fleeing all over — mostly to regimes that are, indeed, not yet murderous and insane. When it comes to resources, I don’t see a difference. I would say communism is slightly worse because the damage cannot be spoken about.

      But with the advent of west European totality, what can and cannot be spoken about has shifted.

  11. Jan – you’re shifting through some epochal gears there. Yes, I think to deal with various problems we have right now our best bet is to re-engage with certain tried-and-tested social and ecological models, even though that implies a profound change from current practices. True, those models didn’t dominate throughout most of human history, but then neither did the suite of problems we currently face. Nor do I see these models as ‘the answer’ – just the most plausible current response based on inherited possibilities, which is all that’s available to any organism. In the long run, you may well be right that r-selected species will inherit the Earth. And in the even longer run, the Earth will change again – quite possibly to the advantage of K-selected species. But I don’t care too much about those long runs, just about the political decisions we’re making right now.

    Also I’ve got to note that while all capitalist societies require systems of private property rights, not all systems of private property rights are capitalist. Which is why I’m happy to favor certain kinds of private property in some circumstances, while not favoring capitalism at all. It’s all in my book…or is that becoming the most annoying phrase on this site already??

    • Goodness – nice to see I’m not the only one overburdened by a thirst for knowledge … and nice to see my publisher Chelsea Green figuring so prominently in your pile…

  12. But where is the path to share better boat building technology?

    If the path means dramatic reduction of energy use, familiarity with subsistence agriculture, low monetary overhead (taxes, cost of living), and deep acceptance of small farms, then the global south is way ahead of the north. I would conjecture that more than 99% of the small subsistence farms in the world are in the south.

    If northerners really wanted quick access to a good “lifeboat”, they could accelerate the process by parachuting in to a small farm in the south (or even becoming the feudal lord of many small farms in the south). It makes fiscal sense to establish a farm where both the land and farm labor cost little.

    But resistance to migration goes both ways. I think the cultural difficulties of northerners moving south would outweigh the fiscal pluses. Think of the resentment created by a bunch of rich northerners “land grabbing” the primary asset of poor farmers. That’s why I am staying in the US and working on my lifeboat here, (albeit as far south as one can go in the US).

    One of the essential needs of people who are really dependent on small farms will be the cooperation of the community of other farmers nearby. Community solidarity will be essential and I think it is far more likely to be maintained where people have known and trusted each other for many years. That’s why people should situate themselves in farming country as soon as possible. It takes time to become a respected and trusted member of a community.

    When the high-energy and high-tech activities in the global north grind to a halt and economic distress leads not only to high unemployment but widespread hunger, then small subsistence farms will be the only real future for most people, north or south. Unlike Chris, I think there will be too many people for too few farms in both places, so there will be little incentive to migrate by anyone. Universal poverty will be a great leveling force and will also make it more difficult for anyone to go anywhere else. People who worry about too much migration need to be patient. The way things are headed, it won’t last long.

    • “Unlike Chris, I think there will be too many people for too few farms in both places, so there will be little incentive to migrate by anyone.”

      Just to clarify, I think much will depend on the overlaps in the chronologies of the various crises humanity faces. As I stated but perhaps didn’t emphasize overly in my post, the best situation is – agreed – a global small farm situation with little migratory incentive. Whether and how that might emerge depends on numerous factors, including the extent to which climate change disproportionately renders lower latitudes more or less uninhabitable.

      I’d agree with you on the benefits of building local trust over time. But I think there’s going to be a lot of people on the move – perhaps mostly within national boundaries rather than across them, as people most likely reverse the migratory trend to coastal cities over the last few decades. So I think we’ll need some ways of speeding up the settling in process to avoid bad outcomes, some of which I’ve suggested on here previously…

  13. nice to see my publisher Chelsea Green figuring so prominently in your pile

    They had a great sale recently. I wouldn’t spend list price on all those books, but 75% off? Now, you’re talkin!

    That particular indulgence started out with waiting for a sale so I could get David Fleming’s Lean Logic. But it quickly turned into a feeding frenzy.

  14. in this system, they are (not yet) sending your relatives to the uranium mines or hanging them because some of their speech is … inconvenient to the regime

    Tell that to the Native Americans.

    John Stewart put it succinctly: “We had a traditional Thanksgiving this year. We invited all the neighbours by for a huge feast, then we killed them and took their land.”

    What is… inconvenient today is wanting anything that is much different from western capitalism. The obsolete and racist 1876 Indian Act of Canada dictates that all tribes must use voting to elect their leaders — something that had never been done in some 14,000 years of oral history.

    Voting is “convenient” for capitalists. It is much more easily controlled than an elder-led consensus process where the land devastation that results from a few temporary jobs building a pipeline is balanced against seeing that seven generations of people will be able to live in a hydrocarbon-free future.

    One of my wife’s adopted sons was just shot by police a couple days ago. He was threatening his girlfriend of many years with a knife. It’s an ongoing pattern that they’ve lived with, and he’s never actually injured her.

    When the police came, he refused to drop the knife, and told them to call my wife. She explained to the calling cop that he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, with all the symptoms: poor impulse control, inability to understand consequences, and emotional instability. She told them they needed to talk him down; that if they just kept shouting, “DROP THE KNIFE!” he would probably do something stupid.

    Two hours later, she called again and learned he was being life-flighted to Seattle. She got on the next ferry to go see him.

    He’s the seventh of eight children, all with FES, all given up for adoption. His birth mother disappeared a decade or so ago — no one knows where or how, no body ever found. Just one of thousands of missing indigenous women.

    The point of this too-long story is that capitalism has its own form of violence. Under communism, if you disagree with the system, you get shipped away to prison. Under capitalism, if you disagree with the system, you get shut out from modern society, to live a life of despair. Unless a pipeline comes through and convinces your elected chiefs that devastating your meagre reservation for a few temporary jobs will make things better.

    Mike Pence just gave a gleeful speech about “the fall of socialism” and the “rise of freedom.” I guess that’s true, as long as don’t feel the need to exercise your freedom by practicing socialism.

    Vera, I understand and appreciate how you came to your point-of-view. But it’s the old “Huxley versus Orwell” story: will “the system” do us in by distracting us so we don’t ask inconvenient questions, or will it do us in by slamming us to the pavement when we ask inconvenient questions?

    Under communism, you weren’t free to practice religion. Under capitalism, you can practice any religion you want. But under either system, we all are required to worship at the Church of Growth.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Jan. I’m sorry to hear of such trauma so close to you. And here’s a comment where I can 100% agree with you. Guess I’d add that as well as being shut out from society the victims of capitalism tend to get shut out from empathy and historical memory in the west. Your story helps me see more clearly where you’re coming from – but hopefully if and when you buy my book at another CG discount sale, it’ll succeed in convincing you that my position isn’t incompatible with yours.

    • Jan: I don’t disagree with anything you say, except the Indian story is old, and everybody has skeletons in the closet — including the Indians.

      All I can say is that the system I grew under was far more menacing to ordinary people than this one. This does not make this one good. My great uncle was hanged. My grandfather was sentenced to 5 years in prison in a secret trial that even my grandmother could not attend. My uncle committed a “suicide.” And western Europe looked away and pretended it’s all just fine and dandy… after all, we “voted” for that system, did we not!? I spoke with a Frenchman in 67 who was taken on a tour of the Czech Potemkin village and reported how happy everyone was. Orwell woulda been hung.

      What boggles my mind is that people who dislike this system join neomarxists in droves, and eulogize thugs like Castro, Winnie Mandela, and Mao. And when people want to talk about what they see happening, they are labeled, othered and censored. Have you ever asked yourself why Jews are fleeing France and Sweden? Have you asked yourself what totality means? Because western Europe is full of its stench, while Eastern Europeans, who still recognize its odor, are regularly insulted from Brussels.

      Yeah, America is knee deep in troubles, but we still got free speech. Maybe it will make a difference some ways down the road.

      P.S. Socialism sucks. Jeez, if the people who flock to neomarxism gave some thought to the new system we all need, maybe we’d get somewhere. Divided we fall.

      • Yes I agree , ” after all they voted in the government ” so what the government does is legal , May of the UK government said to the south African government , taking land from white south african farmers is quite ok as long as they change the constitution to make it legal , so kicking farmers off their land is ok as long as they change the law to accomplish it and is ok in the eyes of the rest of the worlds politicos . So you can do whatever you want as long as you pass a law saying its legal

  15. except the Indian story is old

    If you mean “old” like the Russian communist experience is as “old” as Czarist Russia, then yes.

    But if you meant “same tired, old story,” then I don’t think that’s fair. Walk down skid row in any city that is in Indian Country. It’s only “old” in that it is ongoing. What’s “new” is that capitalism has failed these people, whose ancestors had pretty decent socialist lives.

    Socialism sucks.

    I’m not a “big S” socialist. I think any form of government and any economic system can become oppressive when it is “too big to fail.”

    But I am a “little s” socialist. The co-op movement and shared ownership seems to me the best way to approach an uncertain future.

    Individual ownership of the means of production got us into this mess; surely it can get us out… not!

    • I meant old in the first sense. Sheesh.

      Capitalism is failing a lot of people. But on the other hand, people like Marx would be amazed how at least in some parts of the globe people live. I mean well, in terms he would focus on. When Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, there were still people remembering how they had to crawl on hands and knees through miles of coal tunnels, to bring some out. When pregnant. It’s not black and white.

      Socialism that tells other people what to think and what to say sucks. And before you know it, you are standing in line for one roll of toilet paper. 🙂

      An economic system that is more cooperative than this one need not be called by the same name that endless failed and failing systems have been called, does it?

  16. Socialism that tells other people what to think and what to say sucks.

    I can get behind at least part of that. 🙂

    But surely, capitalism does the same. Just look at the current gong show in the US. My brother and dad are both ardent Trump supporters. Because they claim to be true believers, does that mean they have not been told “what to think and what to say?” Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity come right out of my dad’s mouth!

    • Aw, Jan…

      That’s what I run into all the time. People can’t tell the difference between totalitarian systems and ones that use propaganda (like everybody nowadays).

      Capitalism does not tell people what to think and what to say. Capitalism wants people to keep buying shit. Mainstream media does… and to some extent all media. But hey, nobody’s forcing you to listen or to believe it or even pretend to believe it. The people who seem to want to force people to pretend to believe as they do seem all to be leftie, at least of late.

      Your dad has a choice regarding what comes out of his mouth. My dad did not, else he’d be digging ditches somewhere, or worse. You really don’t see the difference?

      Well, it looks like I gotta call it a night.

    • Probably worth distinguishing between ‘capitalism’ as an economic system, which is entirely compatible with various repressive and authoritarian regimes – Xi’s China, Pinochet’s Chile, Mussolini’s Italy, bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia, Diaz’s Mexico, or the PRI’s Mexico – and aspects of modernist culture within which capitalism came to fruition and which emphasize free speech. Quite a lot of that modernist emphasis came out of the activism of people who didn’t identify remotely with capitalism, and often enough with forms of leftism and socialism…though indeed these traditions have authoritarianisms of their own.

      • Authoritarianism does not work , no matter which colour of politics is in control , from farmers during the 2 WW outside Buxton being ordered to grow potatoes to soviet farms having a one size fits all machinery problem, apparatchiks sitting in offices that refuse to delegate control to those that understand local conditions the system in bound and determined to fail .

        • I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss authoritarianism. It works quite well for those who benefit from it — just ask the House of Saud, the Kim Dynasty, or the Chinese Communist Party, none of which appear to be in danger of collapsing any time soon.

        • Authoritarianism does not work , no matter which colour of politics is in control

          There are ample historical examples of authoritarianism working well, not that I’m making a strong argument for it in today’s world.

          For a huge example, Edo Japan was ruled by an hereditary line of emperors, and yet the population was stable and there were no famines for some 200 years. Check out Azby Brown’s Just Enough to see how it could work.

          What seems to be missing from your concept of “authoritarianism” is the concept of noblesse obligé, or the notion that economic benefits hold with them the obligation to take care of the masses.

          In Edo Japan, the emperor was seen as the human embodiment of God, and he had moral and ethical restrictions as such. This is also the tradition in many hereditary aboriginal governance systems.

          In the Roman Empire — ruled by an authoritarian emperor — there were no taxes on ordinary people, in fact, citizens received a stipend from the government, a direct payment from conquered lands to the common Romans. This arguably contributed to Rome’s downfall, as silver currency suffered continuous debasement, beginning in the 4th century or so, in order to pay the stipends.

          In a more recent (and more controversial) example, when the Soviet Union fell, Castro’s Cuba was cut off from oil supplies. Fidel asked people to stop having children. Everyone, from doctors to lawyers to politicians to ditch-diggers, lost weight. But there was no famine, which could have easily resulted.

          I can’t defend Castro’s suppression of dissent, but one can only surmise that he cared deeply for his people, and for the most part, took good care of them.

          Again, I’m not actually proposing authoritarianism, because the growth of so-called “democracy” has removed the moral/ethical strictures traditionally imposed on authoritarians.

  17. OK Vera, here’s the thing – it’s fine with me if you no longer want to engage with me on my site. It’s not fine with me if you say so publicly and then continue engaging as you wish with other commenters on it. I’m happy to host appropriate discussions between people on my site that don’t necessarily involve me. I’m not happy to host comments from people who’ve specifically disavowed engaging with me on it.

    So please either stop commenting here or revoke your disavowal. If the latter, then I’d like you to consider the style and content of your future comments more carefully. For all that you seem to consider my characterization of your position objectionable and abusive, I think you’ve posted way too much objectionable and abusive material on my blog over time aimed sometimes at me and, more importantly, at more generic targets of your bile (Muslims, immigrants etc.), and increasingly of late in a style that’s close to trolling. You’ve already been banned by and had critical feedback from others on here besides me – I think you should look at yourself a little more rather than heaping opprobrium on others. I don’t want to ban individuals from the site if I can help it, but I’m almost out of patience.

    • I have never been banned from Resilience. I flounced out when they began to censor parts of my (and others’) comments on the sly, then admitted it, then refused to lay down better guidelines… in the world of the unfree speechers, apparently if they don’t like it, that’s sufficient! How convenient. And they won’t even tell you ahead of time what they don’t like, and why. While looking down their noses on the dissidents.

      Which seems to be, roughly, your approach too. I feel sad about that — I had counted you an ally.

      I was merely wrapping up. Bile? Look carefully, where is it? 😉
      Folks who have been kind and to the point here, thank you for all the learning.


        • Sorry for the intrusion. If someone would like the whole story of what happened on Resilience, they can contact me on my blog, Leaving Babylon. I have never claimed they banned me (the info via the link above still stands)… but then again, I have never been there since they got into… shall we say, enthusiastically redacting my comments. Much of what happened then was erased by the censors… er, moderators. Toodles.

  18. I guess it is because I have not followed all the previous discussions, but I fail to see the link between the discussion about “private property” ans the discussion about “free movement of people” (which I believe is the essence of the “immigration” debate. I mean you can perfectly well have people moving around as they wish within a country with strong private property rights and in countries with little private property right. The same goes for immigration policies. To say that you accept accept immigrants isn’t the same as saying that they can grab any land they want. It is, however, possinbly a claim on some collective property right within a country, at least in a welfare state where you wouldn’t accept people starving to death in the street.

    • “I fail to see the link between the discussion about “private property” and the discussion about “free movement of people””

      Well quite, but I was attempting to address the contradiction that Vera perceived in my positions on property boundaries and national boundaries as per the quotation at the start of the post – like you, I don’t myself see them as contradictory.

      “It is, however, possibly a claim on some collective property right within a country.”

      Also agreed, which I guess is where the issue hots up – especially with respect to undocumented migrants. At the risk of further provocations, I’d say that here perhaps it’s reasonable to take a purist line on the need to respect the rule of law, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable then to pick and choose which country’s laws one chooses to respect without invoking a wider sense of natural justice that others may construe differently.

      Wherever the blame for global poverty and the factors underlying refugeeism ultimately lies, I can’t see the moral case against poor migrants voting with their feet. Those of us who advocate for small-scale farming are used to the counter-argument that poor people are ‘voting with their feet’ and getting out of farming in the countryside to move to the cities. This usually seems to be regarded as a positive move on their part, and institutions like the hukou system in China that restricts people to rural residence are widely regarded as unjust. Analogously, I don’t see the justice in militarized border control in the west and the toll of death and misery it causes. If people are voting with their feet in this way, for me the just response must be to address the underlying push factors, not to invest in draconian border control and narratives of cultural attack.

      • Let’s see if I might approach this as something less than a further provocation…

        I think one particularly salient point is, as you have indicated, deciding which country’s laws are to be respected. And perhaps now Brexit, the border issue(s) in Ireland, and politics in Brussels can operate as fair examples.

        Religion will have an impact on some migration decisions (I doubt too many Irish will move to or from Northern Ireland in advance of the final Brexit deal). Likewise movements around the frontier in Jerusalem will have less to do with poverty than genealogy and religion (though poverty does tend to manifest itself more on one side than the other). Movements of the Rohingya people also sort into an ethnic/religious bin.

        Economic issues don’t always work for me either. Take the urbanization of populations. Do all those who up stakes from a rural setting to go to a city imagine they are escaping something? Do some chase the city lights in search of something different (note different is not always better)? I set it up like that so the dichotomy of push or pull can be inspected.

        Back on the choice of regional law respecting… it seems to me that migrants will tend toward the laws, mores, and customs of their homeland. Like language when that must change across an international border, new social and cultural expectations many times need to be acculturated into immigrant behaviors (I feel dumb laying this out in front of a sociologist… but). Time does mend this particular issue, but patience among the populace taking in such immigrants can be strained. For how long in a person’s life are they an immigrant?

        Something so seemingly simple as a respect for time, for keeping appointments, can stress interpersonal relationships. At the risk of displaying a cultural stereotype to make my case – German Americans frequently express displeasure with Hispanic Americans where the former still often place a high value on timeliness, and the latter often don’t.

        And no matter how slight the differences can seem from high above and looking down – when a sedentary group starts complaining about an immigrant population it may start with some isolated incident of real consequence but then it will surely be followed with notes of all the other minor grievances so as to reinforce the case at hand.

        Now let’s ponder why this migration issue frustrates us so today. Migratory issues have plagued more than our species, and throughout all of our recorded history there are examples of humans clashing when moving from place to place. So this is nothing new… or is it? Consider how moving was accomplished 2,000 years ago. It took a very significant effort to move from point A to point B. One frequently risked life and limb to migrate. This is much less the case today. And today the planet is pretty well carved up; there are very few places one can go to where there won’t already be someone in place. That indigenous someone might not be as wealthy as the immigrant either (back to push and pull motivations).

        Less stressful than international migration, but far more common and perhaps more fruitful for study, are the internal migrations within a country. The US can serve as a fine laboratory in this case. Someone from rural Alabama can expect more than a climate shock by moving to an urban Minnesota situation. This is not to be compared with the scale of a move from Aleppo to St. Louis… but little things will still surprise both the emigrant from Alabama and the indigenous Minnesotans.

        Pushing and pulling. Reminds me of the story of the young man dragging a chain down the street. A police officer stops him to inquire why he’s pulling the chain down the street. To which the boy replies – “Much easier than pushing it”.

        • If one sees all the world’s people as having essentially the same attributes, also sees all people having global effects on the environment from their economic activities and thinks that there is a good case to be made for the universality of human rights, then it is not too difficult to see all migration as “internal migration”. It’s just a tiny little planet after all.

          Then, when we consider that virtually every national border has been created by violence, often horrific violence, it is even harder to see them as sacred, especially when the rabid defense of those borders puts all humanity at risk of sudden death from nuclear war.

          I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time pressing for a unified global government (too busy prepping for collapse and the odds against are too long), even though I think it would be the best thing we could do to safely combat our numerous environmental and social injustices, but when I see people glorifying national borders and vilifying those on the other side of them, I can’t help but feel the repugnance welling up.

          I know that nationalists would feel the same about me and everything I have said and I also know that they are very likely to remain as predominate in the future as they have in the past. It’s a shame that the worst angels of our nature always seem to prevail, but if you live long enough, you get used to it.

  19. … taking land from white south african farmers is quite ok as long as they change the constitution to make it legal, so kicking farmers off their land is ok as long as they change the law to accomplish it and is ok in the eyes of the rest of the worlds politicos. So you can do whatever you want as long as you pass a law saying its legal

    This is why I think it is crucial that the modern Neo-peasant learns how to “emulate the rich.”

    As Chris espouses, this means having property rights. It will be difficult (but not impossible) for a government that has any pretence of fairness to take your land away, while simultaneously defending land owned by rich people.

    As Joe notes, governments may well pass certain “restrictions,” such as so much property or so much development, in order to be “exempt” from seizure. That is one reason why I am a proponent of community ownership and small-s socialism. It is much easier to take land away from a sole owner than it is from a community.

    I guess my fear is that corporations will someday become (if they have not, already) “super-persons,” with rights that go beyond ordinary humans. This could result in corporate ownership being different enough from individual ownership such that individual holdings could be seized, but not corporate holdings. This can also be fought with an “emulate the rich” strategy, especially with community ownership: own the land and its structures in corporate form.

    That does not mean that your community need become a greedy corporate whore; in most English-speaking countries, co-op law is a form of corporate law, and a co-op has all the rights and responsibilities of a “one dollar, one vote” corporation. In British Columbia, for example, the Cooperative Associations Act is simply a set of modifications to the encompassing Corporations Act.

    Without an “emulate the rich” strategy, I don’t see much hope for Neo-peasants, who will eventually be swallowed up by moneyed (probably corporate) interests.

    That is, as long as there is government. If things devolve to a feudal system, the legal form of ownership may be less important than the number of people involved, thus retaining the advantages of community ownership.

    In the US — the paragon of modern individualism — guns seem to be the most-cited response to just about anything, especially in a devolving future. Ignore for a moment where ammunition is going to come from; my feeling is that inevitably ends up in an arms race, where having a small cache of arms may make you an attractive target for those having a larger cache of arms.

    • I seem to remember from 30 years ago or so that one of London’s airports wanted to expand ( cant remember which ) a field they wanted was bought and broken up into one square yard lots and sold off making it impossible to compulsory purchase the property .
      As for the gun thing , in a collapse scenario cities have three days of food , New York is the only city in the usa with a gravity water system , gun controls would be much lower on the wish list than stopping cities burning .

  20. Thanks for the further comments. I’m stuck into book-writing mode again so I can’t really engage, but much to agree with there. Hopefully a few more posts will trickle out over the next month or two.

    I’m not overjoyed about the parting of ways with Vera, though I don’t think I could or should have done much different. I’ve rewritten the ‘House Rules’ on the About page to try to encapsulate my general thoughts – might be worth any commenters reading this to take a look. Feedback welcome.

  21. Thanks, Chris, a well-reasoned post. We seem to be curious, restless creatures on the whole, apt to go voyaging, adventuring, vacationing, studying abroad, working overseas, and/or migrating on very little pretext. What is over that horizon anyway?

  22. You’ve provided a thoughtfully articulated explanation of your views on borders and immigration, Chris, and I agree wholeheartedly that you should feel no regret about how you’ve handled yourself. Time and time again, I’ve admired your willingness to engage in good faith with pretty much anyone who drops by. You’ve made SFF an online community in the best sense of the word.

  23. Again, thanks for the further comments and for your responses re comment etiquette Joe & Ernie – appreciated.

    Interesting new points raised by Jan & Daz … hopefully a couple of new posts coming up soon which bear on them, so I’ll hang fire for now.

  24. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss authoritarianism.

    There’s a lot to be said for a “benevolent dictator.”

    Sometimes, a full belly trumps certain freedoms, and those of us in the industrial west blithely ignore the “freedoms” we willingly give up in the name of security, or even in the name of convenience.

    For example, some 30,000+ people are directly killed by cars in the US each year. If this were due to terrorism, or some epidemic, or contaminated food, people would be rioting in the streets for the government to “DO SOMETHING!”

    But every year, 30,000 of us give up the freedom to live in favour of the convenience of using motor transport. And that’s even before considering the possibility of millions killed in the future, due to motor-transport-induced climate change.

    Contrast this to the Castro Regime. I sincerely believe Fidel Castro always had the best outcomes for Cubans in mind, even when he persecuted dissidents. Meanwhile, back in the Good Old Land Of Freedom, people are being persecuted and jailed for caching water and food along the Mexican border.

    If feeding and watering refugees is not a form of “free speech,” I don’t know what is.

    All societies have hierarchies. All societies have winners and losers. All societies have victimless crimes. I would rather eat and not be allowed to criticize our leaders, then to die in a car crash, or to not be allow to be kind to someone.

    So not taking part in motor transport, to the greatest degree possible, might be the ultimate act of rebellion these days. That is, next to setting out water and food for refugees.

    • Interesting points. On a side point, that’s quite a road death toll. Comparing UK and US figures, the US comes out at 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population and the UK at 2.7. I wonder what accounts for the difference?

      • Having lived in the uk and usa I can state the US / TX driving test is a joke , so easy a trained goldfish could pass , you can drive at 16 if you can prove hardship , ( walking seems to be a hardship ) overtaking in what in the uk would be the slow lane ( undertaking ) crap signposting and the ubiquitous pickup that handles like crap , 30% of all NEW vehicles fail to meet the state headlamp requirement , I could go on .

      • These road fatality stats are pretty interesting indeed. So thanks Jan for point this up.

        There is a pretty in-depth breakdown of stats by state here:

        And Daz’s point about TX is fair enough, but there are worse states on per capita basis. Having driven in TX a couple times (many years ago) I can offer that speed seems to be an afterthought… but this can’t be the sole reason. The link goes into alcohol stats, access to care, restraint use, quite a bit of fine tuning.

        I drove in the UK one time. It was 2001 and I didn’t drive very far – driving on the wrong side of the road was too much for my stomach. Even riding with a native born driver was hair raising. The world looks different when you sit in the “drivers seat” and the bloke to your right has the wheel… 🙂

    • Hmmm well in the Democrat Austin TX
      you can get arrested for feeding and watering the indigent population .
      In N Y the ms 13 gang are recommending shooting off duty cops to increase ” street cred ” .
      ICE arrested 7000 people coming across the TX border last week so far 7 are wanted known felons with warrants out for their arrest .
      Power corrupts , absolute power corrupts absolutely.
      “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin .

      • Customs and Border Patrol apprehended the migrants, not ICE. This is an important distinction given the current push from the US left to dismantle ICE, whose remit is to apprehend undocumented immigrants who already reside within the US (not to enforce the borders). Also, because it really should be said, 99.9% of the 7,000 human beings arrested did not have outstanding felony warrants and the majority of them were families and unaccompanied minors fleeing political and economic violence that the US had no small hand in fomenting (including gangs like MS13 which was born in the US carceral system).

  25. #13
    “What line does an enthusiast for self-interested migrant control take when they stop being one of the ‘we’ and become one of the ‘them’, even in their own country?”

    Excellent point. Shortsighted self-interest can backfire since personal circumstances can easily change, and we could find ourselves on the wrong side of the fence at gated communities (writ large) or detention camps.

      • Perhaps you meant Deplorables? Dispicables are those little yellow cartoon dudes.

        And there’s a tour (if it hasn’t wrapped up yet) of Deplorables; if you’re into that. Check your favorite search engine.

        • Perhaps you meant Deplorables?

          “They cain’t deplort me! I wuz borned here!”

          (That was unbelievably difficult to type, due to the “help” of spelling correction… 🙂

          • Beto called texans dispicables , Clinton called everyone deplorables who did not like her , same kind of thing , contempt of anyone republican .

          • Can you point me to where I might find more info about Beto referring to Texans as “despicables”, Daz? Seems like an awfully stupid thing to have said since he was asking Texans to elect him to the Senate, so I’d like to get a better sense of when it was said and in what context (I tried a quick Google search but had no success). Also, Clinton didn’t actually call everyone who didn’t like her “deplorables” — her remark was explicitly aimed at a subset of Trump supporters (in her words, “roughly half”) who she characterized as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. In general, I would hope that most folks agree that racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are, in fact, deplorable, so what’s at issue is whether “roughly half” of Trump supporters are, in fact, those things (a debate, by the way, in which I have no desire to engage).

          • Ernie, thanks for your quietly powerful truth-seeking in your various comments here. Much needed in these times.

  26. Beto said that a meeting in DFW , I was there ,( know your enemy ) so was CNN , MSNBC and the others , yup not the way to make friends and influence people , find another search engine , google is pravda on steroids .
    Now for the scale of things ,
    ” Of the 66,450 people apprehended in February, 36,174 were traveling as family units — composed of adults and children traveling together — and 6,825 were unaccompanied children ”
    Those were the apprehended ones how many more were not caught , thats a towns worth a month coming over the border .

    • I’ve been slow to return to our conversation, Daz, but I do want to follow up on what you’ve written. First, with regard to Beto’s alleged statement, something is just not adding up, and dismissing my inability to turn up any kind of corroboration of your claim by writing that “Google is pravda on steroids” isn’t a very compelling line of argument. So let’s just set that one aside.

      On the more important issue of illegal immigration and border apprehensions, it looks like you’ve decided to move on from implying that undocumented immigrants are a public safety risk (which, by any reasonable comparison, they are not) to implying that the number of February apprehensions points to a more amorphous risk (to my ear, the implication is they’re a rising tide that will swamp us with their sheer numbers, but perhaps I’m reading too much in to it). With that in mind, here’s a chart that shows annual nationwide border apprehensions since 1925:

      As you can see, there’s nothing especially remarkable about the total February apprehensions along the Southern border* when compared to the annual totals for the last 40 or so years. In fact, even if that rate continues, it will still fall noticeably short of just about every year from the mid 80s to the late 00s. Also, the border patrol now employs over four times as many agents as it did in 1992 and has a budget that’s nearly 14 times larger:

      So, while you wonder how many weren’t caught in February, I can’t help but wonder how many more weren’t caught in 1992 when 75% fewer border patrol agents working with a budget that was a tiny fraction of what it is now still managed to apprehend an average of 100,000 people per month. In short, my point is that, from an historical perspective, 66,450 apprehensions isn’t a crisis. It’s not even all that remarkable. Sure, it’s a town’s worth, as you say, but it’s also just 0.002% of the population of the state of Texas, 0.0009% of the total population of the states on our Southern border.

      *The vast majority of apprehensions occur at the Southern border. For example, of the 404,142 total apprehensions in 2018, 396,579 of them were on the Southern border.

  27. Sorry I didnt reply yesterday , busy day fixing burst pipes in the barns it was 8 degrees Fahrenheit here in central TX at sunrise yesterday morning .

    • busy day fixing burst pipes in the barn

      Ouch! We lucked out to a large extent. Had some PEX freeze up under one house, but it expands rather than explodes. Over 80cm (2′) of snow protected the surface plumbing, for the most part. But the snow mostly went away, and it got cold, and a standpipe exploded yesterday, blowing the cap 3 metres (10′) away.

  28. Another excellent blog, thank you Chris. You’ve brought together a few disparate strands of my mind, and helped solidify them, whilst binding them together with some new perspectives I hadn’t seen before. It seems to me that as a species we’re poor at thinking through the full consequences of our actions, and only like to perceive what we’ve already decided we’d like to see. Eg some argue that putting up border walls helps to preserve culture (is this really a culture worth keeping anyway? And why can’t we keep the good things, but lose the bad things? Why is it often portrayed as all or nothing) yet as you highlight the act of trying to preserve that culture, will have unintended consequences (perhaps intended by some) that will itself take a toll on that culture, and may eventually turn against that culture. And the lifeboat analogy was great, thank you, it’s often occurred to me.

    • Thanks Alex – glad you liked the post! Sorry I didn’t get around to approving your comment for a couple of days.

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