Orania is a private town in South Africa. In contrast to the violence-plagued country that surrounds it, Orania enjoys peace and prosperity. Its motto is “Working for freedom.” The town leaders hope one day to become an independent state. Toward that end, Orania already circulates its own currency, the Ora.
The people of Orania embody the independence, self-reliance, and love of freedom that libertarians celebrate. What kind of libertarian wouldn’t?
Well, some self-described libertarians are ambivalent or even hostile to the notion of proprietary communities. Libertarian open-borders universalists assert a positive right of anyone to migrate anywhere, while simultaneously claiming to be defenders of property rights. The existence of private towns such as Orania forces libertarians who assert a positive right to migrate into an ideological dilemma. Do they seek to impose open immigration into these jurisdictions? Or do they defend the right of communities to be selective about who gets in?
Orania's success is tied to its policy of restricting residency to white Afrikaners who meet certain criteria. Whereas the city of Detroit in the last century saw its white population displaced, its total population decline, its wealth erode, and its crime rate explode under the open borders policy forced on it by the Michigan and U.S. governments, Orania has experienced the opposite (albeit on a smaller scale) -- rising wealth, rising population, and very low crime. Fortunately for Oranians, the South African constitution explicitly guarantees the freedom of association and disassociation, at least when it comes to establishing residential communities (a freedom U.S. citizens have been denied since the 1964 Civil Rights Act).
The evidence of a town’s high quality of life being tied to its explicit restriction of inflows is a bitter pill to swallow for open-borders universalists. They tend to be steeped in anti-Racism ideology and hold idealistic egalitarian conceptions of human nature borrowed from the cultural left. But if they are political libertarians, they must permit Orania to exist, at as long as it remains privately owned.
As of now, Orania exists as a private entity within the context of a state to which Oranians still owe taxes. But what if Orania moved to secede and become fully independent?
As soon as Orania became a completely self-governing sovereign jurisdiction, it would be sovereign nation, just like the United States. If all nations are morally obligated to the rest of the world to let in anyone who wants in, then how could Oranians retain their right to be selective?
Only by remaining part of the socialistic state of South Africa, according to these so-called libertarians. Because only then could their exercise of their right to exclude people from their property be tolerated. Once they declare independence, a different set of rules apply – including the one about erecting no barriers to foreign migrants. An independent Orania would have to bulldoze the fences that formerly served as boundaries and declare itself part of a single world community of people.
Of course, this isn’t independence at all. But it’s what the global egalitarian idealists prescribe. Some do so quite consistently in the name of socialism, communism, or communitarianism. Some do so quite falsely in the name of liberty.
The open-borders prescription carries with it an inherent hostility to the principles of private property. A propertarian advocate of liberty would not demand that an independent Orania open its doors to the whole world. Nor would a propertarian advocate of liberty insist that Oranians remain attached to an overbearing state that only tenuously recognizes their property rights.
If your conception of liberty is grounded in private property rights that fully honor freedom of association and disassociation, then you should endorse full self-determination for private communities. That means the right of Oranians to exclude people from the state and the surrounding populations from which they seek total separation. To work against their ambitions of being independent is to work against freedom.