October 23, 2012 23 Comments
In case you were wondering here is a website apparently attempting to pull together and categorize arguments for and against open borders. I know this because apparently a bullet-point in a link roundup post of mine is being cited as
the canonical an example of ‘citizenism‘. The idea being, I think, that my opposition to open borders comes from a belief the US government should be primarily concerned with the well-being of (per Sailer) US citizens – ‘nationalism without romance’.
Fair enough. Guilty as charged. But this strikes me as a two-dimensional characterization of my views. I think what’s being missed in labeling my view ‘citizenism’ is the ‘social-contract’ component for my thinking on this (like many other) subjects.
See, it’s not just that the US government should be primarily concerned with US citizens because that’s what my ‘intuition’ tells me, in a way that I have never examined. It’s because that’s what the founding document of the US government – which set it up, described its purpose, and provides the (only!) raison d’etre for its existence and the power that it wields – actually says it should concern itself with. If (due to whatever philosophical sophistry) the US government has gotten to a point that it isn’t primarily concerned with the well-being of US citizens, then I not-so-humbly suggest we don’t need or want it anymore, and all those people working for what we call the ‘US government’ need to go home, immediately, stop wielding the power that they wield, stop cashing the paychecks that they cash, and think about what they have done.
I can understand that it’s probably hard for Smart People to parse someone’s views as sincerely rooted in belief in a ‘social contract’ however. That’s because all Smart People think the ‘social contract’ is nonsense and couldn’t possibly imagine anyone with a brain believing in it. The whole idea that the basis and legitimacy of a government comes from anything resembling a ‘social contract’ is totally out of favor, and indeed is considered to have been long ago fully and definitively discredited by (whoever…some professor I think). So the possibility is just dismissed out of hand, and my views are read as some sort of inscrutable and unexamined belief in ‘citizenism’.
P.S. Saying that the government is morally required to have open borders because (according to hand-waving; i.e. no one really proves this because no one can, first-order analyses notwithstanding) it would maximize the World Utility Function – which is what the open borders case usually boils down to – is kind of like saying the Board of Directors of a publicly held company should distribute profits equally to everyone in the world…because that, among their possible actions, would maximize the World Utility Function. In both cases someone is seriously Unclear On The Concept, i.e. an important point is being missed: it is not for that purpose that the institution exists. Indeed it would be dereliction, a breach of their fiduciary responsibility for a Board of Directors to intentionally not act in the best interest of stockholders. Well, same goes for a government and its citizens. This is not an ‘intuition’, rather it is a (naive? childlike?) belief in a legalistic or ‘contractual’ conception of what gives a government legitimacy. But again, to fully grasp this point of view requires the ability to understand that people could sincerely subscribe to it (or believe in the ‘social contract’ mythology, if you prefer). Few seem to. I get that, it comes through loud and clear.