It's said that "control of our borders" is a very basic and necessary function of government - even if, as 11 million "illegal" immigrants already working in the US could testify, it does it very badly. We'll consider in Segment 9 what would happen to that function in a free-market society; and first, we must try to understand what exactly a "border" is.

Back in Segment 2 we learned that government itself is mythical and irrational, and best defined as the absence of something (a market) rather than the presence of something. Here, that absurdity will appear again and in particularly sharp form; for borders are works of pure fiction.

1. Take a Flight

Do this for real, if you can, next time you travel by air on a clear day; or if that's not imminent, do it now in imagination or from memory. Get a window seat, and take a map.

Once airborne, start trying to identify over where the aircraft is flying. Coastlines, lakes and rivers will help, for they reflect the bright light of sun and sky; major highways are also often visible even from six miles up. Now, as soon as the map shows you're near a border (between States, for example) see if you can spot it on the ground.

Sometimes borders are chosen to coincide with rivers (the Connecticut River separates Vermont from New Hampshire, for example) but usually not. The map will show that borders are often straight lines drawn clean across forest and field. Look carefully: can you see those?

Occasionally, you might. Parts of the border between the USA and Mexico are reinforced with a physical fence, like this one separating East from West Germany from the 1960s thru 1990, and although thin, such a straight-line artefact might be visible from the air. That one was punctuated by control towers and machine guns; perhaps one day soon, so will be the US border with Mexico. The DDR Government wanted to keep people in, the US Government wants to keep people out - but it's the same idea. Control of people, and where they choose to live and work. Open, deliberate violation of their absolute right of self-ownership.

Apart though from such exceptions, borders are not visible. They cannot be seen from the air, and - even more surprising - usually they cannot be seen from the ground. You might actually step across the US-Canada border in many places without knowing it, unless you had an accurate GPS locator! The border looks clear on the map; but in reality it isn't there. It's fiction; just a government line on a government map.

2. Property Lines?

True, the same lack of visibility applies to most property lines, between one farm or house and the next. So can we not see borders as proper delineations of property, providing bases for good fences and thereby good neighbors?

Alas, we can not; for we've already learned from Segment 8 that government doesn't truly own any property; that "public property" is a gross and absolute oxymoron - it cannot exist. All property must by definition have a real, actual owner, and when it does, a property line is valid. Not else.

So, if borders are not real and visible and if they aren't property lines, what exactly are they? See if you can guess:-

Delimiters for government claims of jurisdiction
Excuses for governments to go to war with each other
Low-security prison fences
Markers to facilitate collection of import taxes

3. Rival Sets of Laws

The absurdity of borders gets worse; in Wonderland, Alice said things got "curiouser and curiouser" and here, the more we think about it, they just get madder and madder.

In government theory, laws are written to provide the best possible structure for a peaceful and harmonious society. We've already seen that that is nonsense, but it's their theory. Now apply it to two areas on the surface of the Earth, separated by a border. One State and the next, maybe.

Now, each side of that border, the nature of human beings is the same. Ethics - right and wrong - are the same. Logic and reason are the same. The nature of physical reality is the same. Those principles, which humans must use to survive and achieve happiness, are identical on each side of the border.

Therefore, the rules for human action should always be the same everywhere, so that people can in fact live in harmony with reality and at peace with one another. Therefore, all areas and societies should have the same rules (and as we saw from Segment 3, in market societies they do) and therefore there is no need at all for borders!

Yet rules and laws and constitutions are different, all over the world, across thousands of borders; and so we conclude that there is an insuperable contradiction at work (a reminder: contradictions exist not in reality, but only in the minds of those who do not think clearly) - borders are "needed" to separate jurisdictions, yet the alleged purpose of those jurisdictions (the ordering of harmony and happiness) must be uniform across them all. Accordingly, borders do not exist in order to facilitate human harmony!

Worse: since the sets of rules across a border are different when no more than one of the sets can be correctly fitted to human needs, the existence of the border is itself a source of conflict!

This contradiction is fatal for the government theory above, and confirms that borders have nothing to do with keeping the peace in human societies, and everything to do with enabling governments to carve up the Earth into areas where different groups of thugs can enjoy the exercise of power. We haven't yet shown that borders exist to furnish "excuses for governments to go to war with each other" as in the Question above, but we're getting there.

4. But... but what about.... ?

All our lives, we've been taught to think "inside the box" that we belong to a tribe, in a particular place or area. We are "born in the USA" and generally are proud of it, as if that were an achievement worthy of praise or congratulation. Exactly the same, utterly absurd sense of pride is found in everyone all over the world, from Britain to Bangladesh and from Chile to China. It is therefore little wonder that when logic like the foregoing leads to the conclusion that borders are not only useless but potentially harmful, our minds go into a degree of cognitive dissonance; that is, we mentally branch off at a tangent and raise all sorts of objections, for this new concept seems too hard to grasp. Some such objections are:

But what about terrorists? - if borders were scrapped, the country could be invaded by enemies toting nuclear bombs in suitcases! And then where would we be?!

It's hard to count the number of false premises embedded in that quite common reaction. First, what is meant exactly by the first-person plural "we"? Is it the US Government, which for two thirds of a century has been systematically infuriating the world's Muslims, provoking them to desperate acts of retaliation? - if so, the answer is perfectly obvious: terminate the acts of aggression (or rather, terminate the government that did the aggressing, to make sure it never repeats) and so remove the motive for terrorists to act. Second, by what feat of imagination is it supposed that a determined malefactor cannot walk across the US border today, nuclear suitcase in hand? - are there not millions of illegal immigrants here already, who did precisely that (though happily, minus the nukes)? And a third, the most important: in a free-market, zero-government society there would be no useful target for the terrorist to bomb, nor any entity from whom he might force concessions or make a treaty. We'll get in to that much further in the segment on War & Defense, but that's critical.

But what about immigrants, swamping our culture and stealing our jobs? That happens to be a hot-button political issue at this (2006) writing. It too is riddled with false premises.

First, America has a long history of immigration, even if we don't count the probable influx of Asians across the Bering ice- or land-bridge. Everybody here is an immigrant or descended from one; and "our culture" is the result, and it's uniquely rich; an eclectic mix of English and Spanish and Irish and Scottish and Russian and Swedish and German and Norwegian and Polish and Chinese... the list hardly ends. Future waves will enrich it still further; we have nothing whatever to fear. People come here because they like it. Then second, note that fatal plural "our"; it does not exist. There is no collective "us" - only 300 million self-owning individuals. And third, a job is not an item of property, it is a contract. Read it, if you have one; it says you will perform certain tasks for the Boss, and the Boss will pay you a certain wage, and the agreement can terminate at any time upon X weeks' notice by either party. The "right to a job" is yet another work of fiction; it never existed. We each have the right to offer our services in exchange for pay (why? - because they are our services, since we own our own lives) but nobody has any right to force an employer to hire (he owns his, too!) And if a new immigrant can do the same work (not probable) for less pay, good luck to him. Oh, and fourth: new members of a society are in no sense a burden (except in the fairy-tale world of government welfare "entitlements") but always an asset! Why? - because, as we saw in Segment 3, in every voluntary exchange, such as work for pay, both parties win for each has a different set of values and priorities.

5. Borders in a Free Society

We've seen above that in reality borders don't actually exist, and that the marks made on maps under that name serve only to delimit the jurisdictional claims of various governments. So in a market society, without any government, would these useless, ghostly marks remain at all?

Short answer: No! - but it's worth examining some implications.

Suppose (as may well be the case) that when everyone in one country - the USA, let's say - walks away from the age-old curse of government and gets on with real life in the resulting market society, it happens that those in neighboring countries (Mexico, Canada) do not, or not at first. Will there be borders, or not?

The answer is that along the line of the former border there will be a series of property lines to mark the limits of ownership of the individuals who own the land in question. As we noted earlier, since those owners will be real and the property will actually be owned, the lines will also have actual meaning and the owners could set conditions for entry by those outside them.

Some may simply prohibit entry; notices would announce "PRIVATE, no entry. Trespassers may be shot." Others may say "VISITORS WELCOME; one gold gram per day, lunch included. Please pay at the house." Others yet might redirect the visitor "PLEASE USE TOLL ROAD one mile to the East. Gold debit cards accepted." Entrepreneurs might offer: "FREEDOM AVAILABLE! Please call at the office and sign up for our course. Only 10 gold grams!"

The point is that entry to and use of the property would be determined by contract, whose terms would be offered by the owner. With thousands of owners lining the former border, the visitor would have a rich choice of options available and for sure, since many of those owners would be eager to do business, those options would include travel along properly-owned toll roads to an endless variety of business centers.

However, the concepts of "entering the USA" and of "Nationality" would no longer exist; such control-ridden phrases will be toast and individuals will be respected for what they are, not for the tribe to which they are forced to say they they belong.

6. Segment Review

Once again, we've covered some breathtaking ideas and it's well to make sure they are well grounded before moving on the Segment 10. Please answer the questions below first, and as usual take up any difficulties with your Mentor; and make good use of the reading list.

Q1    Q2    Q3    Q4    Q5    Q6   

Study Plan

For further reading:
Propaganda from Dr Ron Paul
The Age of the Suitcase Nuke
Terrorists at the Gate
"For a New Liberty" by Murray Rothbard
"Migrations and Cultures" by Thomas Sowell