In his Cato Unbound essay “Against Overlordship,” my colleague Dan Klein argued that the heart of the modern liberal position is the idea that the citizens of a country collectively own their country:

Although they may not be fully conscious of it, progressives and
social democrats are saying that everything is owned by the state. Or,
perhaps, that the substructure upon which topsoil, buildings, and other
things sit is owned by the state. Either way, simply by being in the
United States, you voluntarily agree to all government rules.

Klein continues:

I believe that President Obama sees himself as the duly appointed
officer of the overlord. This overlord is the collectivity called “the
people” or “the state.” It is one big voluntary club… The state’s dominion is the entire polity. As long as you are in the
United States, according to the progressives, it is your contractual
obligation to abide by the rules. You believe in honoring contracts,
don’t you?

I think Klein nails a prominent rationalization for state oppression.  But he ties these arguments to the wrong people.  Mainstream leftists aren’t contractarians; they’re utilitarians.  If you convince them that their favorite policies have bad consequences (a tall order!), they change their minds.  The people who actually appeal to the Overlord Argument are largely conservatives

If this doesn’t ring a bell, there’s a reason: You have to bring up the subject of immigration.  Then you will see many a conservative become an Overlord of Immigration.  Thus, when I point out that immigration restrictions are a gross invasion of human liberty that require compelling rationales, one comment objected:

False imprisonment is an intentional tort, recognized by the common
law. One does not commit false imprisonment by locking one’s doors so
as to keep some other out, one commits it by locking one’s doors so as
to keep someone else in. If someone breaks their shoulder trying to
force your door open, you have not battered them. In short, Bryan’s
moral argument regarding force fails, because he assumes the conclusion
that keeping illegal immigrants out is unprivileged force. The ground
norm is that one who is trying to break in is the initiator of force,
and reasonable force used to keep him out, or eject him, is privileged. (Steve Z)

If the Overlord locks the doors of Our Nation, then, it is the immigrant who is breaking and entering – even if his landlord, employer, and grocer welcome him with open arms.  Similarly, in response to my post on discrimination and illegal immigration, another comment remarks:

So let’s see: Law breaking intruders are “hated” because they’re law
breaking intruders. And they don’t have rights because they are law
breaking intruders. Are they law braking intruders or not? What you’re
saying is that conceiving of illegals as law breaking intruders is
wrong. You’re basing this on your political frame, a frame in which,
ideally, there would be no such thing as an illegal immigrant. While I
understand why you think that no form (or amount) of immigration should
be illegal — some forms are and the vast majority of citizens here
believe that this is how things should be. Given that some immigrants
are illegal enterers and therefore intruders, it’s not clear why you
think, people are wrong in conceiving them as what they are. (Chuch)

Here again, the Overlord Argument fits.  How else could anyone paint immigrants as “intruders” when their landlords, employers, and grocers are delighted to see them?

You might think that it would be easy to persuade conservatives to reject the Overlord Argument.  It’s basically a single-issue rationalization.  And it’s a slippery slope to most of the policies conservatives abhor: If your employer can require health insurance as a condition of employment, why can’t your government require health insurance as a condition of citizenship?  Alas, doublethink is no monopoly of the left.