There are certain phrases uttered by fellow libertarians that cause me to cringe when I hear them, even ones that I myself have used in the not too distant past. Among them are — a phrase that I now disagree with: “libertarianism is being fiscally conservative and socially liberal”; one that I do agree with philosophically but don’t think is a great marketing slogan: “taxation is theft”; and one that makes me question my own libertarian purity: “all government borders are illegitimate.” And it’s that last one that’s been causing the most cringe.
Now to be sure, the way the world’s borders are currently constructed is not how they looked 100, 500, or 1000 years ago, and the changing of such physical boundaries occurred through everything from purchasing to stealing to conquering, all of course at the time was viewed as justifiable or unjustifiable depending on who you asked. So when a libertarian is referring to this fact when making the statement, then sure, at historical face value, it makes sense.
But when the average person today makes such a statement the immediate thought is to specific situations and not necessarily to all of history as whole. For instance, when the United States’ southern border is placed on the chopping block of illegitimacy, a return to the “normal border” is often a call to go back to the one constructed by Spain’s conquering of Mexico — Spain, a country an ocean away from Mexico.
My goal here, however, is not to get into the weeds of how often borders changed hands and who the culprits behind the changing of hands are. Instead, I want to offer an alternative to the “all borders are illegitimate” argument, one that may at first seem contradictory but one that I believe better speaks to the idea of self-sovereignty, another concept libertarians like to espouse.
Thomas Sowell in his book A Conflict of Visions speaks of those who have “constrained vision” and “unconstrained vision.” To summarize, the person with “unconstrained vision” may care deeply about starving kids in Africa and carries out activist work to help them get fed, but also has their own child at home being neglected because of the unconstrained work the parent is engaging in. The person with constrained vision, on the other hand, gives little to no support for starving kids in Africa, but their own children are well taken care of.
From my view, no matter how good the intentions are, the person who constantly parrots the illegitimate state borders trope is suffering a bit from having unconstrained vision, especially if they’re uttering the phrase from their couch in Montana. I would also argue that it sometimes comes across as utilitarian collectivist-speak, which is quite un-libertarian.
Which brings us back to the concept of self-sovereignty, meaning that every person owns themselves. And while I realize that this is posited as the greatest argument in favor of a person possessing the right to freely cross over “fake borders,” a giant unconstrained leap seems to be taking place when that argument is made; you’ve gone from owning yourself to advocating self-ownership worldwide, without putting any sort of steps in between. What I want to propose, then, is a concept that lays a foundation for those in-between steps, one that I’ll refer to as “homeward sovereignty.”
Homeward sovereignty is quite self-explanatory. After reconciling with yourself that you do possess self-sovereignty, that is you’ve come to terms with personal responsibility and your own self-sustainability, what comes next shouldn’t be an activism towards de-legitimizing currently standing broad borders, but instead, next should be a focus on the home, which begins with family and perhaps proceeds to your inner circle; oftentimes, your self-sovereignty coincides with this sort of focus, as the provision of your family and household isn’t separate from your personal responsibilities and self-sustenance.
To branch the concept further out, while homeward sovereignty begins with the home and must always have the main focus be the home, this does not mean that a broader view is neglected. The overview should always be to begin with what’s smallest and what’s closest in proximity and then proceed from there. After your home comes your broader circle of influence, such as your church and your community, then comes city/county, followed by the state you live in.
And to make this concept not only personal and practical, one’s entire political philosophy can also adopt the concept without sacrificing libertarian principles. For instance, advocating for homeward sovereignty as a political philosophy in regards to the United States, is to advocate for non-interventionism; America First, if you will. Additionally, homeward sovereignty also makes the decentralization argument for individual states; the less centralized the federal government becomes, and the closer governance gets to the home, the more sovereignty there is to be gained.
A re-emphasis does need to be made, though. Because while you can and should advocate for such a philosophy in regards to the country and the states within it, the actual beginning of such a concept, again, begins with where we started and with what’s closest to you: the home. So in short, live out homeward sovereignty from smallest to largest, and if you feel the need to preach it in a broader sense, do so while doing the opposite of droning on about the illegitimacy of government borders and instead while exemplifying the concept at home and in your community. ~
“In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.” ~ Jeff Deist