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Appendix B: Coercion and Lebensraum

Tariffs and immigration barriers as a cause of war may be thought far afield from our study, but actually this relationship may be analyzed praxeologically. A tariff imposed by Government A prevents an exporter residing under Government B from making a sale. Furthermore, an immigration barrier imposed by Government A prevents a resident of B from migrating. Both of these impositions are effected by coercion. Tariffs as a prelude to war have often been discussed; less understood is the Lebensraum argument. “Overpopulation” of one particular country (insofar as it is not the result of a voluntary choice to remain in the homeland at the cost of a lower standard of living) is always the result of an immigration barrier imposed by another country. It may be thought that this barrier is purely a “domestic” one. But is it? By what right does the government of a territory proclaim the power to keep other people away? Under a purely free-market system, only individual property owners have the right to keep people off their property. The government's power rests on the implicit assumption that the government owns all the territory that it rules. Only then can the government keep people out of that territory.

Caught in an insoluble contradiction are those believers in the free market and private property who still uphold immigration barriers. They can do so only if they concede that the State is the owner of all property, but in that case they cannot have true private property in their system at all. In a truly free-market system, such as we have outlined above, only first cultivators would have title to unowned property; property that has never been used would remain unowned until someone used it. At present, the State owns all unused property, but it is clear that this is conquest incompatible with the free market. In a truly free market, for example, it would be inconceivable that an Australian agency could arise, laying claim to “ownership” over the vast tracts of unused land on that continent and using force to prevent people from other areas from entering and cultivating that land. It would also be inconceivable that a State could keep people from other areas out of property that the “domestic” property owner wishes them to use. No one but the individual property owner himself would have sovereignty over a piece of property.

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