Collectivist Arizona Immigration Law is Anti-Capitalist

by Harry Binswanger, Ph.D.

Now that the Arizona immigration-control law is at the Supreme Court, it’s time to analyze that law.

There are two levels: the philosophic level and the level of Constitutional law. Fortunately, they both point to the same conclusion.

The philosophical issue is my main concern. There is no dichotomy between property rights and human rights. Just as foreign businessmen have the absolute right to send their products to domestic buyers, foreign individuals have the absolute right to enter the country. If you support free trade, consistency requires supporting free immigration. (But granting citizenship, and the vote, is a different matter; restrictions on that are proper—and should be applied even to natural born citizens.)

And let’s go further: if you abhor the inspection of goods at the border, you should abhor the inspection of men at the border. (The premise of this entire discussion is that we are not at war and not in the midst of an epidemic or other emergency). There is no justification for inspecting parcels or persons at the border. The widespread view that government may properly inspect for disease and criminal records is well motivated, but mistaken. The terms of when a person may be inspected by government has nothing to do with whether the person is domestic or foreign, nor whether he is standing at the nation’s border or on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Police need probable cause (or whatever the legal standard is) in order to interfere with free movement.

There should be no visible border. The border between the U.S. and Mexico (and between the U.S. and Canada) should be exactly like the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts: you see Welcome to Massachusetts and otherwise you are unaware of the difference.

A logical error makes some people think a government has the right to exclude, detain, or otherwise interfere with foreigners. The error is confusing the protection of rights and the non-violation of rights. The fact that a government is limited to protecting its citizens’ rights doesn’t mean the government is allowed to violate non-citizens’ rights. The San Diego police are not authorized to enter Tijuana to start protecting Mexican’s rights, but that doesn’t mean it can enslave Tijunans (whether those Tijunans are inside or outside the U.S.).

Back to first principles: the source of government authority is the delegation of rights by the citizenry. A citizen has no right to interfere with the free movement of any individual, foreign or not, so neither does the government. You could not stand at the national, state, or municipal border and demand people stop for inspection, to prove they are not criminals and not diseased. You cannot delegate to the state a right you do not possess.

Notice that, stemming from your right of self-defense, the state certainly does have the authority to detain and inspect—or even imprison—anyone who gives specific evidence of initiating force. Contra anarchism, if a foreigner is brandishing a gun, that is full justification for police action. But that governmental authority applies in exactly the same way to citizens. It is not whether someone is Mexican or American that justifies government action, it is whether he is objectively threatening force.

Collectivism is usually involved in people’s thinking on this subject: xenophobia is a form of collectivism, and that accounts for a lot of the opposition to open immigration; but collectivism in regard to America is often involved—on both the Left and the Right. For example, people will say: If government didn’t inspect fruits and vegetables coming in from unsanitary places like Mexico, we’d be hit with diseases, which is a form of force. But no one forces you to buy or eat particular fruits or vegetables: they end up in your mouth by a series of voluntary transactions on the free market. A&P chooses to buy Mexican fruits and vegetables, and you choose to buy them from A&P. It is highly against A&P’s interest to sell tainted produce—from anywhere. (And food poisoning is not contagious.)

Collectivism means viewing this issue as: Their unsanitary food enters our country. But it is not them and us—it is a particular Mexican vendor dealing with a particular American supermarket dealing with a particular citizen. And it’s all voluntary.

Now here’s an example of collectivism from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. An editorial on the Arizona law refers to the authority that Congress bestowed as part of its power to manage the nation’s borders. There is no such proper power. The relation of Congress to the U.S. border is not the relation of an individual to his property line. Congress does not hold the U.S. as its property. Again, no individual has the right to go to some jurisdictional boundary and use force against people trying to cross it; he can do that at the border of his property (subject to the requirements of objectivity vs. anarchist vigilantism), but it is collectivism to transfer one’s thinking about property lines to border lines.

The border is a line demarcating jurisdiction not ownership. Its function is to tell the government where its authority ends (and to tell the citizen what legal jurisdiction he has entered). The only proper governmental managing of our borders, in peacetime, that I can think of is keeping in good repair the Welcome to America signs.

The legal-Constitutional side of the Arizona law is something I am not expert on, but given my limited knowledge it seems that the issue is federal vs. state authority regarding immigration. The Constitution gives that authority to the federal government. It is said that all the states are doing is enforcing federal law. E.g., the same Wall Street Journal editorial says:

[Arizona] carefully crafted a state law that is consistent with the federal immigration laws already on the books. All Arizona does is instruct state police to enforce federal immigration laws—for instance, by calling federal officials if a person they arrest can’t verify his legal status. . . . The state is simply using its own resources to execute rules set up by Congress.

These rules are themselves wrong, as I showed above. But let’s waive that and try to straighten out the resulting (ultimately irresolvable) mess. In a conflict between the federal government’s interpretation of how its laws should be executed and a states interpretation of that, which body should prevail? Clearly, the federal government’s. I gather that the federal government does not agree with how Arizona is executing federal law. If that’s the case, it’s sufficient grounds for the Supreme Court to void the Arizona law.

What complicates the case here is that not only is the federal law improper, the objections to how Arizona is administering it, from the little I have read, are improper. The objections seem to center around profiling, which is a conceptual package-deal. The proper part of the package is: it is wrong to use statistics about groups as evidence regarding the volitional choices of individuals. The improper part of the package is the reverse: it is wrong to ignore evidence about the volitional choices of an individual because he is a member of some group. If one sees a thuggish looking individual engaged in suspicious behavior, that is not to be ignored on the grounds that he is a member of some race. (This is only an indication of how to approach what can be a difficult issue in application.)

Aside from the legal issues, the symbolic meaning of the Arizona law is well understood and transcends the issue of Left vs. Right. The supporters of the law are anti-immigration; the opponents of the law are pro-immigration. As an individualist, I oppose the law.

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. Special Offer: Dr. Binswanger moderates Harry Binswanger’s List (HBL)–an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues — a free one-month trial is available at:

IRS Harassment of Tea Party Groups

Ira Stoll notes at The Future of Capitalism that Congressman Tom McClintock, a Republican of California, has made the following remarks about the “IRS Harassment of Tea Party Groups.”

It seems that Tea Party groups are now being treated very differently than their counterparts on the political Left. For the last two years, many have been stone-walled by the IRS when they have sought to register as non-profits and most recently, they have been barraged with increasingly aggressive and threatening demands vastly outside the legal authority of the IRS. Indeed, the only conceivable purpose of some of these demands could be to intimidate and harass.

A Tea Party group in my district is typical of the reports we are hearing from all across the country. This group submitted articles of incorporation as a non-profit to the state of California, and received approval within a month. Then, they tried to register as a non-profit with the IRS. Despite repeated and numerous inquiries, the IRS stonewalled this group for a year and a half, at which time it demanded thousands of pages of documentation – and gave the group less than three weeks to produce it.

The IRS demanded the names of every participant at every meeting held over the last two years, transcripts of every speech given at those meetings, what positions they had taken on issues, the names of their volunteers and donors, and copies of communications they had with elected officials and on and on.

Perhaps most chilling of all, the organizer of this particular group soon found herself the object of a personal income tax audit by the IRS….

Books: Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government

Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government,
written by ARI executive director Yaron Brook and ARI fellow Don
Watkins will be available in bookstores on September 18, 2012. Here is the table of contents from the book’s site:

  1. The Incredible Unshrinking Government
    The Wealth of Free Nations
    Why the Last Swing to the Right Failed
    Conclusion: The Situation Today
  2. Why Government Grows
    The Least Controversial Idea
    The Argument from Need and the Argument from Greed
    Conclusion: A Moral Crisis
  3. With Friends Like These . . .
    Free Marketers vs. the Market
    The Right’s Crusade for Big Government
    Conclusion: In Search of a Defense of “More”
  4. The 2008 Housing Meltdown: A Crisis that Government Built
    The Federal Reserve Spikes the Punch
    Housing Policy Made Things Worse
    Financial Regulation Made Things a Disaster
    The Unlearned Lessons
    Conclusion: Freeing the Unfree Market
  5. Rethinking Selfishness
    The Prisoner and the Producer
    A Package Deal
    Conclusion: Unpacking the Package Deal
  6. The Morality of Success
    Selfishness Is Not Automatic
    Principle 1: Rationality
    Principle 2: Productiveness
    Principle 3: Trade
    A New Concept of Selfishness
    The Evil of Self-Sacrifice
    Conclusion: The Only Way to Be Selfish
  7. The Business of Business
    The Businessman: Parasite or Producer?
    A Fellowship of Traders
    Conclusion: The Great Liberator
  8. The Nobility of the Profit Motive
    What It Shall Profit a Man
    Profitable Principles
    The Altruistic Attack on Business Success
    Conclusion: The “Public Good” Be Damned
  9. Selfishness Unleashed
    A Society of Producers
    Protecting the Profit Motive
    Conclusion: Markets Are Moral
  10. The Dynamism of the Market
    The Division of Labor
    Government Intervention
    Conclusion: The Profit System
  11. The Regulatory State and Its Victims
    Protecting the Consumer
    Protecting the Worker
    Punishing the Producer
    Conclusion: Answering the Argument from Greed
  12. The Immoral Entitlement State
    Before the Entitlement State
    Born of Ideology
    The Entitlement State’s War on the Rational and Productive
    From Entitlement Morality to Entitlement Mentality
    Conclusion: Answering the Argument from Need
  13. You Are Not Your Brother’s Health Care Provider
    The Cause: How Government Made Health Care Inefficient and Expensive
    The Cure: Toward a Free Market in Health Care
    Conclusion: Freeing the Unfree Health Care Market
  14. Stopping the Growth of the State
    Why Only Rational Selfishness Will Do
    The Basic Contradiction
    Ayn Rand and the Free Market Revolution

The FDA Owns Your Stem Cells

Writes Scientist Keith Lockitch on FDA Versus Stem Cell Therapies:

Who owns your cells? The FDA seems to think it does, given its lawsuit against Regenerative Sciences, a company that treats orthopedic injuries by extracting, culturing and reinjecting adult stem cells derived from a patient’s bone marrow.

The case is precedent-setting in that FDA is claiming authority to regulate a patient’s own cells as though they were chemical drugs. As one researcher describes it:

If you start to look at this product as being the patient’s own stem cell, how can the FDA claim Regenerative is manufacturing [cells] – they’re culturing them. . . . They seem to have lost perspective on using autologous stem cells. There’s just no way you could apply manufacturing standards. . . . The FDA does not come into a cardiology practice and tell doctors how to do their surgeries or how to do heart replacements. And yet they feel they can come into a stem cell clinic.

The problem with FDA “coming into a stem cell clinic” is that this could have a significantly chilling effect on this whole field of medical research. Under the burden of FDA’s regulatory intervention, the costs of developing adult stem cell treatments would explode and treatments that might have otherwise been profitable might never even make it to market—as has happened with drug development in the U.S. And while stem cell therapies are under FDA review, patients will be denied government permission to use treatments derived from their own cells. [FDA Versus Stem Cell Therapies]

Read the full post at VOICES for REASON.

Dr. Binswanger’s Personal Recollection of Ayn Rand’s Break with John Hospers

HBL – The Harry Binswanger List

The November-December 2010 issue of Harvard Magazine had a story on Ayn Rand by Jennifer Burns, the author of one of the two (bad) biographies on Ayn Rand that were recently published.

The subject Burns writes about is Ayn Rand’s appearance in October of 1962 at Harvard, where she gave “Art as Sense of Life” to the American Society for Aesthetics. The commentator for her talk was John Hospers, who at that time Ayn Rand was friendly with. Here is Burns’ presentation in the article, which I will correct afterwards.

“What happened next [after she delivered her talk] is a matter of some dispute. As the designated commentator, Hospers rose and delivered some remarks on Rand’s presentation. At least one of her entourage remembered his words as surprisingly sarcastic and harsh. Hospers himself thought his comments, while critical, were entirely typical. ‘I could not simply say how great her remarks were and then sit down,’ he recalled.

“But there was no mistaking Rand’s reaction. She lashed out at him immediately from the dais, raising eyebrows in the crowd.”

Well, as it happens, I was present at that talk. I was 18 years old, had only been introduced to Objectivism 7 months earlier, and was entirely unfamiliar with ideas about decorum and moral sanction. Nonetheless, I was stunned by the hostile manner of Hospers’ comments. I remember, verbatim how he began one of his “comments”: “Surely,” he said in a really sneering way, “Miss Rand doesn’t expect us to believe that a painting of a landscape can [here I’m unsure of the exact wording] convey a view about man’s relation to existence.”

Hospers concluded his attack, then stepped down from the dais, and, as is the academic fashion, Ayn Rand went up to give her response.

As you know, Ayn Rand could get intensely angry and fry a questioner with both her moral intensity and her logic. But, completely contrary to Burns’ report, she was on this occasion more than calm–she was gentle and earnest.

Read the rest…

David Allen: Five Things To Optimize your Focus

According to David Allen in When Office Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized we need “a system that creates space to think, to reflect, to review, to integrate and to connect dots” to put ourselves into “a productive state — the feeling that you’re doing exactly what you should be doing, with a sense of relaxed and focused control?” This allows us to sort out the “chaos of the workplace” and stay “focused on the most important things, as they relate to your goals, direction, values and desired outcomes. You must constantly recalibrate your resources to generate the best results, and to say “not now” to what’s less important.” However points out Allen, we must learn how to do this by following a “sequence of five events to optimize your focus and resources“:

Capture everything that has your attention, in your work and your personal life, in writing. Maybe it’s your departmental budget, a meeting with the new boss, an overdue vacation, or just the need to buy new tires and a jar of mayonnaise. For the typical professional, it can take one to six hours to “empty the attic” of your head. It may seem daunting, but this exercise invariably leads to greater focus and control.

Clarify what each item means to you. Decide what results you want and what actions — if any — are required. If you simply make a list and stop there, without putting the items in context, you’ll be stuck in the territory of compulsive list-making, which ultimately won’t relieve the pressure. What’s the next action when it comes to your budget? The next step in arranging your vacation? Applying this simple but rigorous model puts you in the driver’s seat; otherwise, your lists will hold your psyche hostage. And keep in mind that much progress can be made and stress relieved by applying the magic two-minute rule — that any action that can be finished in two minutes should be done in the moment.

Organize reminders of your resulting to-do lists — for the e-mails you need to send, the phone calls you need to make, the meetings you need to arrange, the at-home tasks you need to complete. Park the inventory of all your projects in a convenient place.

Regularly review and reflect on the whole inventory of your commitments and interests, and bring it up to date. As your needs change, what can move to the front burner, and what can go further back? Make these decisions while considering your overall principles, goals and accountabilities. Schedule a two-hour, weekly operational review, allowing space to clean up, catch up and do some reflective overseeing of the landscape, for all work and personal goals, commitments and activities.

• Finally, deploy your attention and resources appropriately.

Remarks Allen, “I have never seen anyone apply these practices, with some degree of commitment and application, and not find significant improvement in focus, control and results. The technology, the organizational goals, the quirkiness and turbulence of external realities — these become things to manage, not a hoped-for source of productivity itself.”

Read the full article.

Cradle To Grave? Brook and Watkins on The “On Your Own” Economy

Write Yaron Brook and Don Watkins in The “On Your Own” Economy – Forbes:

Are you bothered by the thought of government embedding itself in every aspect of your life? According to President Obama, the only alternative is “a government that tells the American people, you are on your own. If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. . . . That’s not the America I believe in.”


Did people shrink from the twin values of freedom and responsibility? On the contrary, the vast majority of Americans during the 18th and 19th centuries eagerly embraced life’s challenges and flourished under the new system. People didn’t flee from America, they fled to America. They
came here poor, but ambitious—ready to carve out a life for themselves in a country that offered them the only thing they asked for: an open road.

Of course, Americans during this era were not “on their own” in the lone-wolf, asocial sense implied by Obama. Free Americans developed complex webs of association based on voluntary agreement. An unprecedented division of labor—capitalists, businessmen, and workers
coming together to create wealth on an industrial scale—was a product of this new found freedom.

Read the full article at: The “On Your Own” Economy – Forbes]

Ayn Rand Institute’s 2012 Summer Internship Program

The Ayn Rand Institute: Internship Program is a three-week program combines an educational curriculum exploring Rand’s novels, philosophy, and the applications of Rand’s ideas to the world today with a traditional internship in a professional workplace.

This year’s program will bring up to 30 college students and recent graduates from a range of disciplines, backgrounds, and viewpoints to ARI’s main office in Irvine, a small city centrally located in Orange County in sunny Southern California.

To assist with living and travel arrangements, all ARI interns receive a $1200 scholarship and $500 travel stipend.

Learn more at The Ayn Rand Institute: Internship Program.

Salsman on Conservatives Mixing of Religion and Politics

Writes Richard Salsman Over at Forbes:

The framers of the U.S. Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1791) were correct to forbid Congress from enacting any laws establishing or promoting a religion or a church, or abridging free worship, just as they were right (in Article VI) to forbid religious tests of public officials. They endorsed both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Atheists and champions of reason had the same equal rights before the law as did faith-based believers in supernaturalism. Thus the Supreme Law of our land makes no mention of a deity, a prophet, or a religion; it’s The Godless Constitution, as in the name of the 1997 book by Kramnick and Moore.

Unlike today’s religious activists, America’s framers and secularists acknowledged the vicious trail of warfare, torture, abuse and inhumanity that coincided with direct alliances or unifications of church and state. Religion and statism have a common cause against liberty, pleasure, reason, science, money-making, and capitalism. Such partnerships brought the millennium of the Dark Ages, when life spans averaged fewer than 30 years. In the centuries since then, the human toll from religious wars and terrorism has been enormous, yet largely ignored. Even today, the main source of conflict, terrorism and war in the world is religion. Yet most people still declare an allegiance to religion and to belief in unproven realms and beings.

Unlike the framers, who were fairly consistent in their conception of the necessary legal separation, today’s religionists – whether Republicans or Democrats – tend to endorse freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. Neither really wants to keep religion or church power outside of the “public square.” They merely quibble over what role religion plays on the political stage. Whereas the religious right wants government to promote religion, the religious left wants to use religion to sanctify and push its case for wealth redistribution and the welfare state. Recall how last year’s budget debate was infested with claims by the left that Jesus would oppose proposed budget cuts, while the right scrambled to deny they had a point. Where were the secularists in that debate? Nowhere to be found, as I explained in “Holy Scripture and the Welfare State.” Religion today remains not a bulwark against bigger government but a key instigator of its rapid growth. [“Conservatives Eager to Unify Religion and Politics Have an Ally in Obama“]

Jump Start Your Thinking Complimentary Teleclass February 16

Jean Moroney will be giving a complimentary teleclass:

Jump Start Your Thinking
Thursday, February 16, 2012
8:00 p.m. Eastern
(7:00 p.m. Central, 6:00 p.m. Mountain, 5:00 p.m. Pacific)

Dial in live (or listen afterwards on your computer)

In this class, you will learn:

  • The #1 thinking tactic that helps you zero in on top issues immediately
  • How to use small blocks of time for hard thinking tasks
  • The best way to plant thinking seeds now to get insights later
  • How expert advice you already know can jump start your thinking on your most important project

This is an interactive teleclass consisting of lecture, exercises, and discussion. You will have an opportunity to do some targeted thinking on your own project, so have paper and pencil ready.

Ms. Moroney teaches managers and other professionals how to use targeted thinking to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and get projects finished. Her approach to teaching thinking draws on her training in engineering (MIT ’85, ’86), psychology (CMU ’92) and epistemology  (The Objectivist Graduate Center ’96).

For more information and to sign up, visit

This teleclass is a preview class for her all-day Thinking Tactics workshop, presently scheduled for

And for her recorded class, Tap Your Own Brilliance.




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