January 26, 2017

Strakon Lights Up

“Extreme vetting” via the market


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Debating Hillary Clinton in October, Donald Trump called for "extreme vetting" of immigrants "from certain areas of the world," including Syria. That would be government-administered vetting, of course. And now such vetting is edging its way back into the news. It reminds me of a similar statist proposal I saw a while ago; I can't remember the fine points of it, but mainly it would require dodgy immigrants, or immigrants from dodgy parts of the world, to secure government bonding before being allowed in.

All of that has gotten me thinking about what procedures for immigrant-vetting might arise in a non-state, private-property society. In a column in 2000 about a vehicle-tire disaster, I wrote:

In the absence of an official definer of safety pretending omniscience and busily disseminating hallucinations, a genuine competitive market for safety information would flourish. Just as we can see the little shoots and sprigs of free-market education in the parochial and private schools that manage to survive in the suffocating shadow of government, so we can see the shoots and sprigs of a safety-information market in today's consumer magazines and certifications by the Underwriters Laboratories. Stripped of their illusions and delusions about being protected by government, market participants would create an intense demand for real information on product safety.
How would the market for safety apply to people entering a non-state America in which they were strangers? First let me clear away some underbrush. Much else would already be different, given my scenario. The disappearance of the mass-murdering U.S. Empire would surely have exerted some calming effect. Also, no government — no American government, at least — would exist to subsidize the importation of immigrants, including those referred to as refugees. No government would exist to forcibly press them upon localities, or to ladle out taxpayer money to left-wing religious "charities" in order to import and resettle them. Like all other statutory "law," the Refugee Act of 1980 would be gone, baby, gone.

Still, let us assume that most immigrants were continuing to move here from bad neighborhoods, so to speak: states torn by war, tyranny, fanaticism, epidemics, famine, systemic poverty, or other disasters; that Mohammedan Sudden Murder Syndrome (MSMS) was still a threat; and that charities, big corporations, and super-rich supervillains such as George Soros were still exerting all their energies to settle radically alien folk among us.

But among us, really? That part would immediately become much more complicated. Instead of relying on the thin crust of a government border administered by government employees with little at stake, a non-state, private-property society would necessarily feature a dense and complex web of property lines. And all those property owners would have much at stake.

Some property owners would be more eager than others to welcome and admit unknown foreigners from dodgy parts. For example, we may imagine corporations shuttling masses of Third World newcomers directly to their chicken-plucking factories or bean fields. However, with no risk, any longer, of prosecution under "civil rights" law, we may also imagine that landlords, transport-system operators, and other businessmen would want to see something before exposing themselves and their property to the corporations' colorful new employees. What might they want to see?

Well, something produced by the insurance industry, I should think. Proof of insurance, in fact. I am extrapolating here from auto insurance (which is really "driver's insurance"), specifically the liability coverage that is a standard part of it. The riskier a given individual was deemed to be, the pricier his "safety" policy would be. Some would-be immigrants would not be able to afford a policy from a reputable company, and others would just be deemed uninsurable. In other words, we would see the normal working of established insurance practices founded on actuarial science, risk-assessment, and all the rest of it. The fellows with the green eye-shades would carefully examine pre-existing conditions — i.e., personal history. Suffice it to say that the protocols of Obamacare would not be the model. And if the investigators were unable to find enough credible information to calculate a premium, then their company could offer no coverage.

When I read Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the subject of a private-property society, one phrase echoes in my mind over and over, as it would apply to undesirables in such a society: "Move along, move along, move along ..." They'd hear it every day, unless they could demonstrate that they were no longer undesirable in the eyes of those with whom they wished to associate. That's where possession of a good "safe person" insurance card would come in (or, perhaps, evidence of having posted a suitable bond with a reputable bonding agency).

Now, the definition of "undesirable" — or "frightening" or "suspicious" — would differ from place to place, from situation to situation, and from individual to individual. Society — that is to say, millions upon millions of people acting socially — would determine those things, each man contributing his mite by expressing his preferences in his material dealings with those around him.

Those aforementioned corporations seeking chicken-pluckers might well observe standards of desirability different from the norm. That being so, they could pick up the cost of the immigrants' safety-insurance policies; or they themselves could insure the strangers or post their bond; or they could even require their employees to live in company towns and never leave them. However, the impact of that on the bottom line just might put the mass hiring of such folk in a new light, up there in the boardroom. The gravity of the market works inexorably to apply the ultimate costs of action to the actor, insofar as that's possible.

But errors would occur! The market isn't perfect! I would expect those favoring state restriction of immigration to be the first to remind me of that, just as left-socialists remind me in other contexts. I do grasp the fact that attaining perfection is hard. Evildoers would still sneak into our society — though their sneaking would have to be a permanent occupation, given that never-ending web of property lines. Insurance companies would make mistakes. For that matter, fly-by-night companies might practically hand out policies to raving neckbeards wearing dynamite vests — though landlords, employers, airlines, and so forth might expect to see proof of insurance from, say, State Farm or Travelers instead. Some MSMS atrocities might occur, killing and maiming innocent victims — as they do in our present world, with less recompense for the survivors. You and I, though native Americans, might sometimes be asked to show a safety-insurance card, and be discriminated against if we couldn't — though profiling by businessmen with valuable good will at stake might work a little differently from the present style of police profiling.

I am suggesting that, under freedom, effective countervailing forces have a way of arising in response to demand. And changing in response to changing demand. And varying locally in response to local demand.

The foregoing is merely a preliminary sketch, if you will — and pretty general. You will have seen, for instance, that I haven't distinguished between chicken-plucking Mexicans (who aren't really big on jihad) and Mohammedans. My sketch contains some speculation, but I don't pretend to know exactly how the structure of free-market vetting would emerge — for example, what the role of insurance companies would be vis-à-vis that of Tannehillian defense agencies. I am not imagining a utopia or writing futuristic political fiction.

That said, I invite the reader to compare the success of the market in other areas to that of socialism, hagridden as it is by the calculation problem and relying as it does on brute force. There's a certain rule we've always insisted on here at The Last Ditch: that the standards one uses to assess the performance of society and its market in satisfying people's desires must be the same as the standards one uses to assess the performance of the state.

Those imprisoned by the conventional, totalitarian habits of mind harbor dystopian expectations of free society and utopian expectations of the state. But public safety cannot spring from such derangement. Ω

January 26, 2017
(Revised January 27, 2017)

Published in 2017 by WTM Enterprises.

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