by: Glenn Jacobs
Libertarian philosophy is based on the concept of self-ownership. Human beings own themselves. When we rightfully acquire property, either by making first claim to that property (homesteading) or through voluntary transfer with another person or persons, that property becomes part of our lives, and thus we lay claim to ownership of that property as we would our own bodies.
One of the problems that libertarians encounter when discussing various issues is determining ownership, or, in many cases, articulating the nuances of applying property rights to the issue. These problems are compounded when government is thrown into the equation since the same rules about property and ownership that apply to private individuals do not apply to coercive government. The hot-button issue of immigration is a great example, illustrating the complexities involved in applying property rights to an issue.
Ownership means that one not only possess something, but one also controls the thing. In other words, if you truly own something, you must be free to use the thing as you wish so long as doing so does not violate the property of others. You must also be free to transfer the thing to another person so long as the transaction is voluntary and consensual. When it comes to land, property rights, i.e. control over that land, include controlling who enters into the boundaries of the land.
When dealing with the topic of immigration, that is, the movement of individuals across political designations, this is where things get confusing. The State claims not only to be able to control who crosses the land that it owns, but also to control who enters land owned by private individuals. It also claims the authority to prohibit certain individuals from living within its borders, even if these individuals acquired their land rightfully (using the criteria above) by homesteading or through voluntary exchange. Those of us who believe that private property is the basis of a free society must ask: how was this authority engendered?