Anything Peaceful

The title of this post comes from a book by one of the great free minds, Leonard Read.  “Anything Peaceful” has become a motto for me.  It guides my theology, my politics, my life philosophy.  I have a t-shirt with it.  Perhaps, someday, I will make a family crest with that motto.

“Anything peaceful” is a major reason why I advocate for free markets.  Consenting individuals should be allowed to live as they choose so long as it is peaceful.  People should buy and sell as they please, so long as it is peaceful.  Those who harm others, whose actions are not peaceful, should be duly punished.  But, so long as the action is peaceful, there is no reason to stop it.

I also extend this motto, this philosophy, of “anything peaceful” immigration.  Peaceful people should be allowed to come and go as they so please.  Peaceful people should be allowed to interact with whomever they please, again so long as it’s peaceful.

There are fantastic (and I mean that literally, that they are removed from reality) theories about why free people must prevent free immigration: these immigrants are barbarians at the gate, coming to rape and murder our people, who will overthrow our government and establish their own failed states on our broken and battered bodies.  The only thing keeping these barbarians at bay is an invisible line on the ground.  I reject these theories on both empirical and logical grounds, but they also represent a fundamental misunderstanding on the nature of open borders.

There is nothing fundamentally different between domestic migration and international migration.  Alluding to my earlier point, peaceful people can come and go as they please.  So long as one’s purpose is peaceful, he should not be detained.  But non-peaceful people should be detained.  If a murderer flees Massachusetts and enters New Hampshire, New Hampshire has every right (indeed a duty) to stop and detain that murderer.  However, if a merchant leaves Massachusetts to sell his wares in New Hampshire, that man should not be detained by New Hampshire.

The same is true with international migration.  If a murderer leaves Mexico and tries to enter the United States, the US has a right (indeed a duty) to detain that murderer.  However, if a merchant (or laborer) leaves Mexico to sell his wares, the United States should not detain that man.

If someone moves to a new place and commits a crime, a murder or rape or theft, she should be detained.  He has committed a crime.  But simply moving from one place to another and crossing some invisible line is no crime.  To conflate the two as equally bad is to either cheapen violent crime or exaggerate the violence of a peaceful action.  And this is the crux of the issue of closed borders: it is violence against a non-violent action.

Anything peaceful.

6 thoughts on “Anything Peaceful

  1. Jon

    Or a family crest tattoo:

    If you don’t care about being “Brave and Hospitable” “Quicquam Pacificum” would work just as well. 🙂

    Good post Jon, I agree 100%. I think people who object to open borders have an exaggerated sense of “us vs them” and see people as homogeneous groups rather than as individuals. That and people thinking they have a fixed pie they don’t want to share with others.

    I just finished The Economics Of Immigration. A well balanced collection of essays on the subject edited by Benjamin Powell.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “But, so long as the action is peaceful, there is no reason to stop it.”

    What happens if their intent is by their actions aren’t? I ask since you can “be peaceful” with your actions and your intent is violence, maybe never physical or deliberate, but it still leads to it. Then you have violent rhetoric but peaceful actions.

    Theology is also part of philosophy, it’s a branch of.


  3. I find libertarian views on such matters to be of great value in my thinking, but not always decisive. Seems to me the trick is to decide who and what behavior is actually peaceful, or at what point nominally peaceful behavior, practiced en masse, leads to disorder and ultimately violence. To take an extreme case, your neighbors can ‘peacefully’ arm themselves to the teeth up until the moment they open fire on your house. A Islamic terrorist can be a technically ‘peaceful’ person with no prior history of violence. Running a red light when there is no traffic in sight is not an unpeaceful act but for practical reasons is not allowed. It seems to me that one could make a countless list of cases where prior restraint might lead to the most peaceful and efficient outcome, though this may always be impossible to determine with certainty in a given case.


    • aajaxx

      Of course prior restraint can lead to more peaceful outcomes. If we were each kept in separate cages so we couldn’t hurt each other the world would be a very peaceful place.

      Who gets to decide the limits of prior restraint?


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