Six theses on being a dick

Bryan Caplan thinks that we should go vigilante and allow lots of immigrants into the US (let’s stipulate that we’re talking about immigration of poor Mexicans).

There’s so much wrong with his line of argument that it’s hard to know where to begin . . .

Perhaps the biggest problem with his argument is that he’s arguing that the US should do something that it’s already doing. Although the written laws of the US technically make many forms of immigration illegal, the unwritten laws of the country would seem to strongly encourage poor Mexicans to immigrate to the US.

He claims that prohibiting this sort of immigration is a crime against humanity. Presumably his line of reasoning is that bringing poor people into a rich country will make said poor people richer. This was a cool theory a few decades ago.

We now know what happens when you import a bunch of poor Mexicans into a specific geographic region. Shockingly, said region begins to resemble . . . Mexico. As Sailer puts it:

the evidence from a couple of generations in Southern California is [illegal immigrants and especially their descendants] mostly make wages lower, real estate costs higher, and public schools lousier for working and middle class Americans.

Sounds awesome.

Instead of making poor people richer, mass immigration from Mexico will likely make Americans much poorer. In my opinion, such a policy would destroy a tremendous amount of wealth and innovation. As such, by Caplan’s logic, his policy is a crime against humanity, and I’m justified in punishing him. Hmmmm . . .

This blogger however, believes in order. I do not suggest or endorse vigilantism. All I ask is that we be honest about the consequences of mass immigration from Mexico.

If we follow Caplan’s policies, many things will have to change. Democracy and trial by jury are really bad ideas in a diverse society, for example. Inequality will skyrocket. Trust among citizens (I know that’s an archaic term) will plummet, etc. Let’s stop bullshitting ourselves about these facts.

Caplan likes to claim that he’s anti-democracy, but it appears that The People favor this policy. Mainstream Republican outfits certainly seem to.

Sonic Charmer has some thoughts worth repeating:

It’s kind of fascinating to see what a highly intelligent person can talk himself into. You have to be a special kind of genius to fail to understand basic points like: nation-states exist, and have borders, and have a fundamental interest in controlling those borders, meaning, ideally, via law enforcement rather than vigilantism and tit-for-tat guerilla raids (but the latter could just as easily be arranged). 99.999% of the world – even probably most of the people Bryan thinks he’s helping – understands all this full well and really without much controversy. Only if you get a special sort of education and ensconce yourself into a sufficiently comfortable bubble do you learn to forget it and talk yourself out of this sort of common sense.

Finally, I’d note that it takes a special kind of dick to demand vigilantism in favor of importing poor Mexicans while glorifying in the fact that you don’t ever have to, you know, actually interact with them.


47 Responses to Six theses on being a dick

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t remember if it was you, one of your commenters, or some other party, but somebody a while ago completely owned Caplan with the “anyone on the planet should just show up and attend classes at Mason” argument.

    • Handle says:

      That would be me.

      Maybe the “liberalitarians” would understand this basic idea better if they understood that the citizens of a community can be viewed as having some of the same exclusive rights of possession and control over their composition and destiny as the members of the private organizations (clubs, universities, corporations, etc.) they worship.

      The existing stockholders of the Apple corporation, for example, discriminate ruthlessly against the non-owners in terms of who has any right to determine the future direction of the company and to partake of the dividends of its activities. How greedy! But don’t the libertarians defend greed?

      Uh oh, maybe we’ve found the next human right and inherently immoral area of human affairs against which it is obligatory on all of us to resit, overthrow, and smash the existing order so that we can establish our post property utopia of human equality. Wait a minute … sounds familiar somehow.

  2. If Caplan is anything other than a White-hating bigot, I have yet to notice.

    • Vladimir says:


      I think you’re mistaken about this. Caplan is simply one of those people who are nerdy enough that they feel the need to state their moral principles clearly and precisely and then follow them to their logical conclusion no matter what. I don’t think he harbors any hatred or resentment of the sort you ascribe to him. On the contrary — he derives his positions in a purely logical way starting from his oddball libertarian premises, untempered by the usual human inclination for rationalizations and unprincipled exceptions.

      I’ve read his blog for years, and it’s clear that he has no problem with reaching highly un-PC positions whenever his nerdy logic leads him there. On occasions, he has provoked fits of outrage from leftists by stating such conclusions openly. (And it’s also clear that he has other ones that he’s smart enough not to state so plainly, even though he hints at them at times.) On yet other occasions, this same logic has led him to original and accurate analysis of some contemporary sacred-cow subjects — check out his writings on education.

      So, while Caplan certainly has quite a few crazy positions, I don’t think you’re being fair to him.

      • I admit that I have done no searching, but I have not seen Caplan advocate open borders for any non-White country. If Caplan has writings advocating Japan (for example) open her borders to immigrants, and naturalize and enfranchise them, I will withdraw my point and apologize for jumping the gun.

        If Caplan only wishes to inflict his national suicide pact on White countries, it stands to reason that he hates Whites.

        My perception is that a lot of oddball libertarian premises, political autism, etc., are boundaries people erect in their own heads to hide their contempt for Whites from themselves. If Caplan accidentally happened on these positions without holding anti-White sentiment himself, mea culpa, but it hardly helps his case that he works for people who actively discriminate against Whites.

        If someone on your (American) football team constantly urges your team to stop blocking, stop wearing helmets and pads but continue to play football you will eventually wonder what he has against you. Won’t you? Keep in mind this is not an outside observer saying that the game is too dangerous and should be abolished or toned down. This is a player, from a team. He can’t stop belonging to a team; even if he says he doesn’t belong he only ever seems to talk to one team.

        Playing football without blocking is a little like trying a pacifist trying to hold onto a country even though it is located on Earth. Which reminds me of a good sentence by George Orwell: “Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States…” (Raising the interesting question: could it be that Caplan just dislikes English-speakers?)

    • anonymous says:

      Vladimir’s analysis of Bryan Caplan is accurate. Caplan has no hostility to whites, but he feels no loyalty to them either. He is extremely loyal to the moral principles that he regards to be axiomatic, and to the derivative political positions that he has deduced a priori from said principles. Back in my libertarian days in the 1990s (prior to the point where Caplan got a PhD), I communicated with him quite a bit on a libertarian listserv. He hasn’t changed much. He’s of the moderately autistic personality type who finds the internally consistent and logically valid application of abstract principles to be inherently satisfying. I have some of those tendencies myself, and used to be much like him in that regard. Eventually though, building castles in the clouds ceased being enjoyable for it’s own sake, and I realized that it wasn’t getting me laid. I started taking a realist approach to thinking about politics, and became much more apolitical compared to my former self, often not even taking a definite stand on a number of issues.

    • asdf says:

      Caplan’s logic is internally consistant. The problem lies in the first principles. All first principles are made up, so when people argue (honestly) about politics it usually goes back to first principles that are irreconciliable. Thus arguing about politics is useless, even if you eliminate the hypocracy and doublethink.

      • Alrenous says:

        His logic isn’t internally consistent, actually. If it appears that way, it is amputee logic.

        It doesn’t matter if immigration is good for America, or if Caplan’s unit of group analysis is simply ‘humanity.’

        For immigration to be a crime against humanity, it has to be like a murder, not like a let-die. In other words, the anti-immigration crowd has to have somehow caused Mexico to be poor.

        The anti-immigration people didn’t cause Mexico to be poor. Oops #1.

        Indeed, in the long term it might be better for everyone to prevent immigration.

        Consider the limit: if Caplan’s moral principle is true, then everyone should move to America, and be able to do so. That’s a lot of perfectly useful landmass going to waste. Oops #2.

        Obviously the real problem isn’t where the potential immigrant is, but the culture and institutions they’re subject to.

        Immigration harms American culture and institutions. Oops #3.

        Is Mexico scared enough of emigration to implement better institutions and cultural reforms? Look at who is emigrating: the poorest. Mexico isn’t scared of emigration, it is cynically dumping its refuse in America’s backyard, laughing at the dupe who’s letting them. Oops #4: immigration actually supports Mexico’s corrupt institutions and culture.

        Caplan has amputated the downstream consequences of his logic. He got the answer he wanted, then stopped. If you keep going, you find the line of thought plows right into the weeds.

        By the way, I’m mildly in favour of immigration myself. However, my final conclusion is not ‘open the floodgates,’ as per my comment below.

  3. The Will of Landu says:

    I’m from a Northeast working class family, and I could tell you that If Dr. Caplan had espoused these ideas in a union hall or a Knights of Columbus in the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s – he not only would have been considered a traitor, but considered mad as well.

  4. vishmehr24 says:

    The libertarian slogan is “Lose the We”. That is, belief in We is delusive. There are no Nations, only individuals. Beginning with this premise, everything follows.

    This premise of Lose the We is logical climax of Lockean idea that man forms society for mutual convenience. This contrasts with the classical idea of Man as a Political Animal that human society is natural and irreducible.

    Now if society be a matter of convenience only, that it may be reorganized for more convenience. That is the libertarian and progressive project.
    Both being different sides of a same coin.

    The reactionary project should be to point out that Society possesses a Nature and irreducible Identity of its own.

  5. PA says:

    I read that Caplan piece you linked at the end. It’s a mix of arrogance and stupidity. When such and attitude spreads among the ruling classes, it’s called a pre-revolutionary condition.

    “The Elites” ought to take note of the fact that one of their outer-ring courtiers is being sloppy.

    • rightsaidfred says:

      When such and attitude spreads among the ruling classes, it’s called a pre-revolutionary condition.

      I hope so. Meanwhile I’ll call it failed public policy.

      What Caplan pushes here is the modern liberal penchant to give stuff away: give away your country’s economic resources to poor Mexicans so they will like you. More beta male posturing on someone else’s dime. The problem here is that when the policy is exposed for the failure that it is, Caplan pays little of the cost.

      Among the many things Caplan doesn’t account for is the adversarial nature inherent in ethnic/immigration issues. We are getting a sort of steady, low level ethnic cleansing where, for example, you can travel through large swaths of central california (sic) and see only Mestizos. It is up to the natives to put up a fight and defend what they have (or had), but we’ve got Bryan Caplan on our side, who actively cheers for the demise of those who allowed him his pulpit. I wonder what he’ll think on the day there is a knock on his door telling him it is his time to go.

  6. James_G says:

    Here are six theses on extremely unjust laws that I dare you to dispute:

    1. Extremely unjust laws are conceivable.

    2. Extremely unjust laws exist.

    3. It is morally permissible to break an extremely unjust law.

    4. It is morally permissible to evade punishment for breaking an extremely unjust law.

    5. It is morally impermissible to enforce an extremely unjust law.

    6. It is morally permissible to punish a person for enforcing an extremely unjust law.

    The thing that really slays me about these theses – and should slay you – is that the last four are ALL untrue; or to be more precise, they all clearly embody a misperception of reality (whether this is also true of the first two propositions depends on Caplan’s intended definition of “unjust” – this is a nebulous word).

    The misperception of reality in question is the mind projection fallacy. The following is an extremely concise version of ideas that I’ll elucidate fully on my blog in the near future:

    To become fully rational, on the above evidence Caplan needs to do the following:

    1. Perform the following transformation on all of his moral beliefs, to expunge the mind projection fallacy from this aspect of his thinking:

    (I shouldn’t take action X, because when that action is taken as an argument by a one-place morality-function it returns the answer “morally wrong” —–} I shouldn’t take action X because when my personal “moral computation”, which is embodied physically in my brain, is entered into a two-place morality-function along with action X, it returns the answer “morally wrong”, and I personally want to do whatever is “right” according to this two-place morality-function).

    2. This leaves Caplan with no false beliefs about “objective shouldness” projected onto the world. However, he still possesses an extensive set of inconsistent personal wants. For example, “he” (different parts of his brain) might want to remove immigration restrictions and also want to keep immigration restrictions. A further desideratum of rationality is that Caplan should be a consistent expected utility maximiser with reflective equilibrium. To achieve this, Caplan needs to choose one and only one basic goal, from which all of his other instrumental goals flow.

    An obvious choice is to maximise (as far as possible) the net amount of (pleasure – pain) experienced by sentient computations in the timeless Universe. Another way of putting this is: maximise the absolute expected value of (hedons – dolors).

    3. Unfortunately, physical control over the body identified with “Bryan Caplan” tends to pass amongst different parts of the brain inside that body. There is little chance that the more emotional parts of his brain will serve this goal, “maximise (hedons-dolors)”, efficiently. Therefore, it is necessary for the most verily rational part of Caplan’s brain to distinguish itself from the other parts. One way of facilitating this would be for Caplan to stop referring to “me”, “I”, et cetera, and start referring to Caplan(rational) whose goal is to maximise (hedons – dolors) of sentient computations including but not limited to those instantiated in his own brain, and Caplan(emotions) who is sometimes in control to a large extent, who doesn’t always try to maximise (hedons – dolors), and who has to be appeased and cajoled by Caplan(rational) in order for Caplan(rational) most effectively to realise his single goal.

    I submit that, although Mexicans and other humans are (approximately) equally capable of instantiating hedons and dolors, the best way of maximising expected (hedons – dolors) given all of the constraints that exist is not by removing immigration restrictions in the US. The immediate increase in (hedons – dolors) owing to improved circumstances for Mexican immigrants is outweighed by decreases in expected value of (hedons – dolors) over all time-scales as a consequence of this policy (e.g. due to disruption of first world civilisation).

  7. Alrenous says:

    I would say ‘enforcement’ but even that isn’t quite necessary. Simple legitimacy or respect of property rights would solve everything. It dissolves several problems and prevents others. For example legitimacy allows enforcement wherever necessary.

    (I also have a meta-point about the morality of immigration: why can’t the immigrants create our weath+ institution in their own country?)

    First, it places responsibility for the effects on immigration on the property owner who allowed them in. When your money is where your mouth is, who is in favour of immigration? That would be revealing.

    Second, it dissolves the argument. This is only even sensible as an argument because the government presents itself as sensitive to argument, and is forcing its ideas on everyone. As long as I’m allowed to sue for externalities, Caplan letting Mexicans onto his property is absolutely none of my business, and if I want Mexicans on mine it’s none of yours.

    Third, it prevents the new property from looking like Mexico. Something like 90% of Mexico’s issues stem from particular anti-property behaviours. If the immigrants had to respect property, they would be unable to bring their dysfunction with them.

    Yes, I’m saying almost all of the cultural issues with immigrants are caused by holding them to a lower standard of behaviour. Indeed I suspect it is even lower than the one Mexico holds them to.

    As to the meta-point. Historically, westerners were as poor as Mexicans. Our ancestors fixed it. Way to go, ancestors!

    According to Caplan’s assumptions, Mexicans are capable of living up to western norms. Or, you know, they could implement those norms at home. If they can do it in American, they can do it in Mexico.

    It is frankly not our responsibility that Mexican’s ancestors didn’t solve the problem, and ours did. Further: an argument can be made that it is a violation of the principle of responsibility to let them immigrate.

    It is making them children, which the parental Americans must save from their own folly, expecting they can never learn from it on their own.

    Looking at it the other way, I return to point three. Are Mexicans ever expected to grow up to be responsible adults? Not by American law enforcement, at any rate. Instead they’re encouraged to be whining dependants.

    Our ancestors had to figure it out all on their own; Mexicans could just copy us. They don’t seem willing to do so in Mexico, though, which is a reason you can safely expect they won’t in America either.

    • James_G says:

      As long as I’m allowed to sue for externalities, Caplan letting Mexicans onto his property is absolutely none of my business, and if I want Mexicans on mine it’s none of yours.

      So if I were to conclude, rationally on the basis of available evidence that your being permitted to allow Mexicans onto your property would (for the sake of argument) both significantly decrease the expected amount of pleasure and increase the expected amount of pain experienced by humans and other beings in general, I should elect not to interfere because it’s (morally speaking) “none of my business”?

      Might you not consider revising your meta-ethical and philosophical beliefs (as outlined above) in light of this rather unpleasant observation?

      • Alrenous says:

        I mentioned externalities. If you can prove that the Mexican will significantly harm your property, then….?

        Of course proving such in a court of law will likely show that I merely have to be diligent in preventing the effects of my tenants from spilling over. Much like any good neighbour would, regardless of the law; this problem has already been solved.

        So, I would say that no, ‘beings in general’ are not your business.

      • K(yle) says:

        A person is their own property and their well being is subjective. In your scenario I don’t really have to ‘prove’ that I’m being ‘harmed’ by your tenants. I only have to say that I am to a jury of like minded peers that also don’t want you renting to Mexicans.

        Presumably you’d also have to take care of all their needs, which includes transportation to your property as the use of publicly owned roads or airspace or resources of any kind would be forbidden.

        The only way to ‘dissolve’ the issue with property rights would be in some kind of resurgent feudalism where your ‘tenants’ would live and die on your property, draw all their resources such as drinking water, food, and generate electricity completely from your own assets.

        Also presumably the tenants children wouldn’t be ‘natural born’ citizens of the USA but your personal dependents. Likewise these laborers can’t be discharged as employees any more than you can adopt pets and let them become strays in your neighborhood, or dump your trash on the corner. You’d also have to provide for their policing and ensuring that they don’t leave your property.

        “Enforcing property rights” would effectively be an immigration ban, unless we are talking about ‘enforcing property rights’ while still being unacceptably permissive about the use of public property, and ostensibly ‘private’ property that was purchased with public funds or is conveyed across publicly owned lands (such as electricity, water, waste disposal, et cetera).

        Some individuals or corporations might even go with that model, as they would once again be able to pay workers in scrip, and there would be labor colony shops, homes, hospitals, et cetera but overall there would be virtually no immigration because national service-based chains like restaurants or fly-by-night landscapers that employ the bulk illegal immigrants currently wouldn’t be able to afford this model as it requires a lot of infrastructure (setting up a state within a state; a fiefdom).

        Not to mention if this was actually popular, economically successful and really caught on it would be basically identical to apartheid where the ethnically distinct labor force is kept segregated. These ‘tenants’ would be so similar to being your ‘property’ that there would only be a handful of exceptions. I of course have no problem with it, but lots of people would, which is why it will never happen.

        The society that simply bans the kind of historically unprecendented immigration we have in the US looks and feels a lot more ‘free’ than the one where ‘property rights are enforced’ (and the community is necessarily dissolved).

        Handle has the right of it above in saying:

        the citizens of a community can be viewed as having some of the same exclusive rights of possession and control over their composition and destiny as the members of the private organizations


      • Alrenous says:

        Presumably you’d also have to take care of all their needs, which includes transportation to your property as the use of publicly owned roads or airspace or resources of any kind would be forbidden..

        So you’re going to start barring access to previously unrestricted roads, just for me? You’re already having to get seriously unreasonable to make your case, here.

      • K(yle) says:

        The roads currently don’t have unrestricted access. Their use is determined by state. You can currently be barred from public property personally but that’s not what I stated.

        What I said is you would be barred from using public property to do whatever you want with it; which is already the case now. There are all kinds of laws restricting the transport of various different kinds of cargo. For example even with the current immigration climate it is still illegal for you to load up a shipping container or the flatbed of a pickup with human cargo.

        The state doesn’t necessarily have to allow you the ability to import your ‘tenants’. The state can perfectly validly take the prerogative that public utilities are only allowed a certain kind of use to protect the ‘commons’.

        You say ‘enforce property rights’, but seem to think that access to the commons should be essentially unrestricted. Those roads weren’t built so you could use them to shuttle a peon underclass around the country. I, and most citizens would have no reasons to want to allow your ‘tenants’ access to public utilities at all. Their very presence creates increased demand which drives up the cost. I don’t want them on the roads for purposes of congestion, I don’t want insurance rates going up, demand for vehicles, usage fees for public or private mass transit, additional waiting lines at public or private hospitals, et cetera.

        There is absolutely no reason that you should get to parasitically feed off of public utilities to subsidize your work force. If your national restaurant chain wants to employ thousands of Mexican dishwashers then buy land and build roads to convey your workforce to their job entirely on your own property. Public utilities are for use by the public in the exact same way that the bathroom in my own home is exclusively for the use of people who live there or those I’ve personally invited. I’m under no obligation to let anyone use anything in my own home because he’s a friend of a friend of a friend.

        Similarly there is no special rule being created just for me that prevents me from driving my tank on “unrestricted” roads because they are already restricted from being used by non-authorized vehicles. Roads are necessarily restricted or they’d be ruin by the minority of eccentric tank-enthusiasts such as myself rather quickly.

      • Alrenous says:

        You’re bringing up tanks? Seriously?

        The issue is infrastructure. To enforce your ban on letting me drive Mexicans to my real estate, you have to build structures that can also prevent me from having Canadians in my car.

        No, your point is that you’re innocent of anarchist philosophy. Commons? My position is that there shouldn’t be a commons. Indeed privatizing the transportation systems would probably be ten times better for the economy than anything immigration related. The commons are far more harmful to property rights.

  8. Tschafer says:

    Caplan is a typical deranged ideologue. He starts with a lot of blather about human rights, and ends with the conclusion that it’s OK to kill people who disagree with him. Quite a position for a”pacifist” – or has he moved away from that now, I have a hard time keeping track. The guy is a loon, pure and simple.

  9. Matt says:

    I don’t know, Caplan is a weirdo, but seems harmless. He’s honest in his way, just stupid. My question is whether anyone really listens to him. Is he influential?

    Contrast with Matt Yglesias, who even when he says something true, is so smarmy and dishonest that I want to punch him in the face.

    • Mencius Moldbug has quoted Caplan from time to time.

      I can’t speak for others, but I for one attack him because he strikes me as an infiltrator; his libertarian opposition to taxes & regs causes a lot of rightists to drop their guard when he writes. It is my habit to always believe the worst about anyone who condones immigration from Mexico the US.

      • Vladimir says:

        I’ve been a long-time reader of Caplan, and while I readily agree that many of his positions are downright crazy (such as his open-borders fanaticism), at the same time I have a lot of respect for his intellectual honesty and I find his insight on many topics extremely interesting.

        Basically, his extreme, simplistic, and nerdily logical libertarianism is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, when it clashes with common sense, it leads him to ignore common sense and adopt silly extreme positions, and he’s best ignored when he talks about those. However, at other times, his approach clashes with various taboos and sacred cows of modernity, and it leads him to ignore those and do a highly original and sensible (and often extremely un-PC) analysis. This is very much unlike a typical leftist/liberal/neoconservative/etc. intellectual, who will always instinctively bend his thinking to make his conclusions ideologically acceptable.

        It’s these latter cases that make Caplan an interesting writer, for all his faults. See for example his writings on the causes of modern First-World poverty or education as signaling.

  10. It’s important to remember that, in order to see if Caplan’s position is actually consistent, we need to apply a reversal test. Caplan would have to demand that Mexico allow the absolute poorest and most illiterate White Americans, with little or no ability to speak Spanish, to immigrate to the richest neighborhoods in Mexico, and get jobs and/or state assistance. This is because somewhat poor Mexicans are as bad off as extremely poor Americans, and the wealthiest Mexican neighborhoods are comparable to ordinary non-NAM-majority neighborhoods in the United States.

    Now that I think about it, though, even this isn’t quite right. The White Americans would blend it much better among the lily white Mexican rich than mestizos do in Alabama or Oregon. And the non-standard language the hypothetical Americans bring in, English, is much easier to translate into Spanish than Nahuatl, Maya, etc. are to translate into English.

    The other reason the reversal test won’t work is that the richest neighborhoods of Mexico are only a small part of its area; Caplan advocates Mexicans living anywhere in the America they please. It’s inconceivable that American immigrants to Mexico could destroy Mexico’s large hard-working private-sector middle class, because there is no such class.

    • Vladimir says:


      Yes, you really are wrong about this. Caplan is a self-professed “anarcho-capitalist” who believes that all “coercion” by government is immoral, period, and border controls are just one special case.

      As far as I can tell from his writings, he does believe that First World’s immigration controls for Third Worlders are worse than vice versa, but only insofar as there are more people who would like to move in that direction, so more people are affected by that instance of (what he sees as) illegitimate coercion. (It’s sort of like saying that one robber is worse than another, but only insofar as he has robbed more victims.) Again, I’ve been reading him for years, and I’ve never felt any ulterior ideological motive for his beliefs — just straightforward nerdy logical deduction from pure and extreme libertarian principles.

      Now, it is certainly true that Caplan’s nerdy libertarianism is seriously out of touch with normal human thinking. He believes it’s perfectly fine if one uses one’s private wealth to erect private fences and insulate oneself from whatever undesirable elements one dislikes — it’s just immoral to employ government force for that end. However, unlike affluent leftists, who do the former all the time but would never admit to it explicitly, inventing countless rationalizations for their behavior, he will just claim openly that private fences are moral but government fences aren’t, so his own private bubble is unobjectionable. (Whereas everyone except nerdy libertarians like him, including the aforementioned hypocritical leftists, won’t see such a big difference between private and government fences.)

      • NumisCro says:

        I too am a long term follower of Caplan’s writings and I think your analysis of his general tendencies is spot on. He’s a very smart guy usually, which is why he properly annoys me with his views on immigration.

        I disagree with your point that being pro-immigration is just a special case of what Caplan does daily. This topic is not just another detached and random application of his libertarian principles. There is definitely emotional involvement. Caplan has an entire website dedicated to immigration — he doesn’t do that for ever contrarian stand he takes. On the web site, IIRC (I’m typing from mobile and lazy to check) he takes on anti-immigration arguments comprehensively and not just from a libertarian perspective. He disproves various utilitarian arguments using utilitarian counter-arguments (figures). His thinking is not only unprincipled, but unusually sloppy, again IIRC, he waves away the externality argument with some nonsense. He is definitely being an activist on this issue, unlike most others, and arguments suffer in the process.

        Consider also for a moment prioritization. Say you are a disinterested libertarian (I am to a large degree)… what issues would you want to tackle first? If Mexicans’ right to travel freely (not restricted much as it is) is such a travesty of human rights that deserves a significant allocation of your time, warranting some pretty tough language in the process, then surely the fact that people are being killed in various parts of the world (including cities like Chichago) would warrant more attention if you were a detached observer from outer space?

        And lastly… one can make smart and creative libertarian arguments against immigration. My conjecture is thus this: Caplan has a pro-immigration intuition first and his rationalizations come after. Few of us are any different. I think that the lengths to which he is going, as well as shortcuts he is taking, give some support to my view.

      • K(yle) says:

        NumisCro is correct. Caplan is primarily an immigration activist. Most people won’t even know that he is a “libertarian” especially since the bulk of his public writing not derived from libertarian principles in the promotion of immigration.

  11. Vladimir says:


    Also, I think this part of your above comment deserves some clarification:

    My perception is that a lot of oddball libertarian premises, political autism, etc., are boundaries people erect in their own heads to hide their contempt for Whites from themselves. […] If someone on your (American) football team constantly urges your team to stop blocking, stop wearing helmets and pads but continue to play football you will eventually wonder what he has against you. Won’t you? […] He can’t stop belonging to a team; even if he says he doesn’t belong he only ever seems to talk to one team.

    When it comes to oddball libertarianism and political autism, I think there are several different common psychological mechanisms that are relevant here, and for correct understanding of the problem, they need to be distinguished. Namely:

    1. There is indeed a lot of genuine leftist hatred and contempt among the modern intelligentsia. However, such people have no need for nerdy libertarian rationalizations for their positions, since their ideology is already as high-status as it could possibly be, and they’d just lower it by tacking on such elements.

    2. There are business interests and their shills that call for open borders out of sheer profit motive, seeking cheap and docile labor. There are also political left-wing interests seeking to import reliable voting blocks. In such cases, libertarian rationalizations and economic sophistries are a standard propaganda tool. (And, as it always happens with propaganda, those peddling such arguments will also also come to believe them at least partly.)

    3. There are people who harbor no leftist hatred and contempt, and who also have no ulterior venal motives, and often even identify themselves as non-leftist conservatives and libertarians, but who are envious of the left-wingers’ high social status and intellectual prestige. Because of this, they will desperately seize any opportunity where they think they can beat the leftists at their own game and come off as morally superior by the leftists’ own standards. This sometimes leads such people to embrace nerdy libertarian positions and then revel in how it makes them bigger open-borders fanatics than the actual leftists.

    4. Finally, there are people who are genuinely outside of the usual left-right ideological divides and who insist on taking their own idiosyncratic libertarian principles to their logical conclusion no matter what. This makes their beliefs on particular issues all over the map — and if they are very smart, like Caplan, it also leads them to a mixture of downright crazy and highly insightful positions, depending on the issue. (One problem is that such people typically lack the social skills to get very far in life — if anything, they lack the instinct to know when it’s better to keep their mouth shut. Caplan is either an exception in this regard or very lucky to have never stepped on a landmine.)

    All things considered, Caplan seems to me firmly in category (4). In my opinion, he really is starting with a very nerdy and limited model of the world that allows him to consider himself, with full honesty, as outside of any team when it comes to political entities of any kind. Of course, in the real world, things don’t work like that — but my point is that his beliefs are honest and straightforward, not a rationalization for ulterior ideological motives.

    • Thanks for your in-depth replies, Vladimir. I will peruse over the next day or two.

    • I have read Caplan’s articles on education as signaling and Charles Murray.

      He’s that aware of NAM IQ and criminality, but he’s still in favor of importing tons of them (important: before any of his abolitions of dysgenic welfare take effect).

      It strikes me that one of Caplan’s main eccentricities is his faith in the super-powers and super-morality of the police. I could buy a bunch of land, put a sign that says “NO BLACKS OR MEXICANS–Whites Welcome”, and the police would catch all the trespassers, essentially because Caplan thinks trespassing is wrong.

      Then when anti-White / anti-propertarian hippies came and picketed my property, the police would always leave them alone when they are not trespassing, menacing anyone, or violating any noise ordinances, and would immediately arrest any violator.

      Then when prosecutors, judges, and jurors (who ruled against the hippies who had broken my mailbox and thrown bottles of Sobe on my property) started getting death threats from the Mexican mafia, all those calls would be traced and the gangsters would prosecuted, but the ones who called up just to say that they were angry but not to make threats would not be harassed by the police.

      Anyway, it’s just a stream of consciousness. I’ll admit that Caplan may just be your type four (I’ll call him a mad scientist) rather than an Uncle Tim.

      • K(yle) says:

        He doesn’t actually believe in LE/the justice system (especially being an anarcho-capitalist); he just uses this for obfuscation. You’ll see the same hypocritical argument among foolish black Americans of the “He din do nuffin!” anti-law enforcement vein.

        They view crime as transactional in nature, so that if a murder occurs and the murderer is caught then everything is working as it should be. You point out the rampant criminality of the black community and the answer is that it doesn’t matter because they all get caught and go to jail, which is just a deflection and it is equally a deflection when Caplan goes that route.

        Note that in Olave’s example if you had to constantly clean up hippy litter and get a new mailbox, even if you were remunerated for this damage and the wrong-doers were perfectly punished it would still be an incredibly ass-backwards, and non-ideal way of doing things. Especially when you consider most criminals can’t actually pay for what they cost. Can you charge the hippy for the mailbox, trash removal, labor hours lost of the police, courts, jurors, et cetera? That’s running in the tens of thousands of dollars range. If they can’t pay then what? The get put in jail? They can’t afford to be put in jail. That’s a service that has to be paid for as well.

  12. PA says:

    “he will just claim openly that private fences are moral but government fences aren’t, so his own private bubble is unobjectionable.”

    Vladimir, here is a way of seeing if what your apologia for Caplan checks out: what would he think about restrictive covenants?

    • Vladimir says:


      As far as I can tell, he makes no exception to the libertarian principle that all voluntary agreements between private parties should be legally valid, period. He is in open disagreement with those less dedicated libertarians who want to make an unprincipled exception in favor of anti-discrimination laws.

      See also this as another notable example where he threw leftists into fits of outrage by following his libertarian logic. His positions do coincide with the radical left on some issues, like the open borders, but this isn’t because he’s one of them.

    • Dude he is against anti-discrimination laws and the Civil Rights Act impinging on freedom of association. Stop trying to find a witch here, there ain’t none. Caplan is a consistent, sincere anarcho-capitalist ideologue with no hypocritical ill-will towards specific groups.

      • Foseti says:

        That may be giving him too much credit. The Mises-wing of the anarcho-capitalists are anti-immigration. Caplan’s logic is pretty strange, and it’s fair to note that. Importing unlimited numbers of Mexican immigrants will make the US a much less libertarian place. It’s odd that he’s so ecstatic about the US becoming less libertarian.

  13. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Caplan should remember Milton Friedman’s point about how you can have open immigration or you can have a welfare state, but you cannot have both.

  14. James_G says:

    Caplan should remember Milton Friedman’s point about how you can have open immigration or you can have a welfare state, but you cannot have both.

    He does. That is one of his arguments in favour of unrestricted immigration: it would reduce support for social welfare.

    An obvious rejoinder is that this reduction in support for social welfare would happen as a consequence of a precipitous drop in mutual trust and sympathy amongst the citizenry, and the harm therein outweighs the benefit obtained by reducing the scope of government welfare.

    Regarding Caplan’s principles: I’m not a regular reader of his writings, but I suspect that he is a Pharisee – a person whose outward appearance of intense devotion to some principle, down to the very minutiae, masks a high level of inward corruption.

    Vladimir has linked to some very truthful and iconoclastic articles of Caplan’s; however, one might argue that this is “iconoclasm-lite”, and question the material effects of this kind of iconoclasm on his readership and the zeitgeist.

    Yes, the welfare state creates perverse incentives for people of high time preference and low intelligence – that is an important insight. Caplan goes on to say, “Murray doesn’t just explain poverty; he explains elites’ failure to understand poverty. Elites live in a high-IQ, low-impulsiveness Bubble. They then incorrectly infer that the welfare state has little effect on anyone’s behavior.”

    This is probably true of many high status people. However, in leaving his analysis at this point (which I strongly suspect he did, although I wish otherwise) is he not letting the actual culprit off the hook? Should he not go on to criticise the government, which employs legions of social scientists and policy experts whose very job it is to investigate the effects of the welfare state and other policies on different segments of the citizenry?

    The difference between someone like Caplan and a more sincere writer like Moldbug is then in the fact that Moldbug actually sticks the knife where it belongs: into the heart of irresponsible governance and the hegemonic leftist-Idealist memeplex that facilitates it.

    Elsewhere, this alleged libertarian betrays the fact that he doesn’t understand the Austrian business cycle theory. At least that’s the impression I took from the debate, although apparently the blog owner TGGP saw things differently.

    Caplan is very smart, so the reason for his inability to think sensibly about ABCT could be motivated cognition rather than genuine incapacity. Motivated cognition is the tendency for humans to generate false landscapes of justification in the presence of “attachments and flinches”. In this case, Caplan’s flinch is caused by a subconscious awareness that a belief in the substantial validity of ABCT (which is surely the most salient feature of Austrian economics, vis a vis the mainstream today) leads naturally to seriously iconoclastic ideas about the state of our economic governance and the means of restoring long-term economic stability.

    Caplan’s beliefs about Austrian economics are of some import, because higher-status intellectuals like Matthew Yglesias refer to people like him as an authority. To quote from Yglesias’s January 2012 article, What is ‘Austrian Economics’ and why is Ron Paul obsessed with it?:

    As he declared quasi-victory in Iowa following a third-place finish, Ron Paul puzzled cable news watchers across the country by proudly proclaiming, “We are all Austrians now.” […]

    Paul’s statement was crystal clear to those familiar with the internecine controversies of the libertarian movement. He was referring to so-called “Austrian economics,” an idiosyncratic passion of his and a set of beliefs that put him at odds with the vast majority of well-known economists of all ideological inclinations. […]

    “Austrian economics,” in this sense, goes beyond standard-issue free market thinking in a number of ways. […] Austrians, practically every economic policy pursued by the federal government and Federal Reserve is a mistake that distorts markets. Rather than curing recessions, claim Austrians, stimulative policies cause them by producing unsustainable bubbles.

    The way this works, according to the Austrians, is that artificially low interest rates spur “malinvestment” in unworkable enterprises that inevitably crash when the stimulus is withdrawn. This is an emotionally appealing idea, positing that the suffering of a bust is a kind of cosmic payback for the boom. But it doesn’t make much logical sense. For one thing, as George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan, who’s ideologically sympathetic to the Austrians, points out, it’s hard to understand why businesspeople would be so easily duped in this way. [NB: this is one of his arguments in the debate that I linked to, in which he fared very poorly] If Ron Paul and Ludwig von Mises know that cheap money can’t last forever, why don’t private investors? Why wouldn’t firms avoid making the supposedly dumb investments?

    So it seems to me that, practically speaking, Bryan Caplan is an intellectual who offers nuggets of iconoclastic truth without following these through to their logical (anti-Universalist) conclusion – i.e. he is deliberately ineffectual – and will also subconsciously bend and corrupt his thinking about economics if this allows him to avoid having to take an excessively severe anti-Universalist stance. So much for his principles.

    On the other hand, when strict devotion to his principles happen to raise his status, by allowing him to adopt a position that is ahead of the Universalist curve (i.e. radical immigration liberalisation) he transforms into the most fervent, principled libertarian imaginable.

    He wants to be lauded as an iconoclast without giving up any of his status (or even helping to raise his status by acting as a tame “iconoclast”). Although I don’t mean to suggest that life in the modern West is remotely comparable to life under Communism, as a moral actor Caplan seems to me more Yevgeny Yevtushenko than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    • Abelard Lindsey says:

      Where I part company with Caplan is the idea that limiting immigration to the U.S. is a crime against humanity. This claim essentially makes the U.S. citizen/taxpayer responsible for the actions of all foreign individuals and governments. In other words, we are all our bothers keepers. No libertarian I know of accepts this position.

      Indeed, the members of any particular nation-state do have the right to accept or reject newcomers, no differently than one has the right to accept or reject visitors in one’s home.

    • K(yle) says:

      I agree with your diagnosis here. He strikes me as practicing crypsis. His introduction to ‘right-libertarianism’ was Ayn Rand who was also against borders. Against borders for goyim that was. Arabs where savages in her own words and that justified Israel as an ethnostate with enforced borders.

      Is Israel a flagrant perpetrator of ‘crimes against humanity’ and does that justify ‘vigilantism’ (in reality the term would be terrorism, but we’ll euphemise) against the Jewish state and its’ supporters? Based on Caplan’s own history on the subject the answer is no. He essentially advocates that Palestinians become ‘pacifists’ because they can’t win militarily, which is again utilitarian, not libertarian, policy choice. It’s an unprincipled exception just like Ayn Rand’s.

      Caplan isn’t consistent, and he has never supported sacrificing the safety of individual Israeli’s because the Palestinians are just too dangerous. He doesn’t hold as a matter of principle that you should only be safe from foreigners if you can afford to insulate yourself. He only holds this position where it either benefits him or doesn’t harm him.

  15. “That is one of his arguments in favour of unrestricted immigration: it would reduce support for social welfare.”

    Except it doesn’t. All it means is more rent-seeking and racial groups fighting over the commons.

    Caplan is your basic NIMBY. Diversity for thee but not for me.

  16. spandrell says:

    Methinks foseti said it all from the beginning when he called Caplan a dick. Who cares whether he’s smart or his logic is consistent. The guy’s a dick and he wants to screw with all of us.

  17. Randy says:

    My family employs a bunch of legal immigrants and they work a lot harder than the white guys. That’s just a simple fact, at least on crews that my Dad runs. Maybe if we let them in a lot more legally they would be able to work and pay taxes. Since we don’t though, it makes it harder for them to contribute above board.

    • James_G says:

      Mexicans (and Somalis, Papuans etc.) make for much better citizens than Americans of European ancestry. If one had to choose a set of humans with which to populate a country, people of European descent would be right out. That’s why countries like Mexico are so desirable to live in. Hopefully your Dad finds a way to emigrate there.

    • The trouble is not with immigrants born in Mexico. The trouble is with their sons. This table (an admission against interest from a pro-immigration source–UC Irvine–purporting to show that immigrants are harmless) show that the incarceration rate for US-born young males of Mexican descent is over three times as high as it is for US-born young White males. (Rumbaut, Gonzales, Komaie, & Morgan, 2006)

      The study chops up the data to make it as hard as possible to compare apples-to-apples. The whole thing is written to obscure the fact that when people are raised in ultra-permissive societies like the US, their crime rate is higher than their coëthnics born overseas. Note that the intermediate condition–being born in a Hispanic/Latino (repressive) outpost of the (permissive) United States–gives an intermediate result: PR-born Puerto Ricans are right in the middle on crime rates (worse than immigrants from Africa). (CONUS-born Puerto Ricans are almost as criminal as Mexicans).

      Also note that the table refutes any attempt to group Asians together on criminality. US-born SE Asians are quite criminal; NE Asians are not. The conclusions are obvious: not all groups are equally suited to life in the United States. Which groups are suited is more correlated to latitude than other factors (religion, language, etc.)

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