National Sovereignty and Immigration

Jay: “I advocate open borders.”
Lots of people Left and Right: “What, you don’t believe in national sovereignty?”
Jay: “Well, no, but even if I did, invoking national sovereignty doesn’t resolve the issue.”

Many people think something like the following argument is sound:
1. States have a right to national sovereignty.
2. National sovereignty includes a right to determine who may pass borders.
3. Therefore, national sovereignty precludes open borders.

In this argument, premise 2 does all the work. Most laypeople will just present premise 1 and immediately jump to the conclusion, 3: “Nations have a right to national sovereignty; therefore, they have a right to close or restrict their borders to immigrants.”

However, the problem with this argument, which proponents rarely notice, is that it doesn’t specify why national sovereignty includes this right to restrict freedom but not others. The restrictionist’s argument can be parodied as follows:

Jay: “I advocate free speech, freedom of lifestyle, sexual freedom, free trade, pharmaceutical freedom, and freedom of conscience.”
Illiberal respondent: “What, you don’t believe in national sovereignty?”
Jay: “Well, again, no, I don’t, but even if I did, invoking national sovereignty doesn’t resolve the issue.”

As this dialogue illustrates, it would seem to be a non-starter, or at least not very illuminating, to argue against other liberal freedoms on the grounds that nations or states enjoy national sovereignty. After all, the liberal could just say, “I believe in national sovereignty, but nations have sovereignty over only a limited range of issues. They do not have legitimacy or authority to eliminate free speech, sexual freedom, and so on. The dispute between you (the illiberal) and me isn’t over whether nations have sovereignty, but over what they have sovereignty. So let’s hear your real argument. Please stop pounding the table.”

The defender of open borders can say the same thing. “Sure, nations have sovereignty, within certain limits set by justice. I presume you agree. So, now let’s move on to the actual dispute, which is over whether people have a right to emigrate/immigrate and to what degree nations may restrict that. Please stop invoking sovereignty as if you were making an independent argument rather than just begging the question.”

  • Ben Kennedy

    I would argue that the border control power is actually the same fundamental power that allows the state to jail criminals, which in effect removes them from your territory. In that sense, it’s not “national sovereignty enables border control”, it’s “national sovereignty is border control” because national sovereignty is the right to say what is and what is not a crime, and also the ability to enforce it

    • Tedd

      I more or less agree. I can’t see any meaningful definition of sovereignty over specific territory that doesn’t include the authority to determine who can enter that territory, because the sovereignty isn’t really about the territory, as such, it’s about to whom the authority of that sovereignty applies. The territory is just a way of defining and delineating that set of people. (Not that land and resources are irrelevant, but they’re secondary. You would still have the same nation if you uprooted everyone and moved them to Mars.)

      Premise 1 (sovereignty) is debatable but, once we accept it, it seems to me that we’re pretty much stuck with the conclusion. Now the right form of restriction might be “none at all,” but that’s an entirely separate question.

      • Roderick T. long

        There is a historical conception of sovereignty that makes it a monopoly over people rather than territory, but that conception is precisely NOT a possible argument against open borders, precisely because it allows for people in the same territory to be subject to different sovereigns. (See medieval Europe.) You don’t have a right to exclude person X from your territory if your sovereignty is over people rather than territory.

        The modern nation-state system, by contrast, does take sovereignty to be territorial. But all that means is that (by contrast with the above) a person becomes subject to your sovereignty as soon as they enter your territory. It doesn’t follow that kicking them out is one of the legitimate uses of your sovereignty.

    • Roderick T. long

      “national sovereignty is the right to say what is and what is not a crime”

      If that were true, that would be a pretty clear argument against national sovereignty. Because there surely is no such thing, on ANYONE’s part, as an UNRESTRICTED “right to say what is and what is not a crime.” Otherwise the possessor of such a right could, say, commit genocide with perfect justification.

      • Ben Kennedy

        That’s simply what sovereignty is as a practical matter – the people in charge are the ones that set the rules. It is not a claim that it this is how things ought to be, and orthogonal to whether such rules are deemed “just” or “unjust”

        • Roderick T. long

          But this is a normative discussion, isn’t it? I mean, nobody is debating whether the government has the POWER to kick out immigrants.

          • Ben Kennedy

            Well, this confusion is why someone using the phrase “national sovereignty” thinks that “open borders” is a nonsense concept. If you have the exact same conversation with someone and replace “open borders” with “liberal immigration policy”, you might get some decent dialog. People that invoke “national sovereignty” are not saying that no foreigner should ever be allowed in the country

          • Roderick T. long

            “Well, this confusion is why someone using the phrase “national sovereignty” thinks that ‘open borders’ is a nonsense concept.”

            I don’t understand what you mean here.

          • Ben Kennedy

            Suppose someone advocated for “open locks” with regard to home doors. A person could hear this as

            A) Given the the typical rights of owning a house, not having locks is wise/just/etc” (maybe “open locks” is just shorthand for “hospitality is good”)

            or

            B) Homeowners don’t have the right to lock their doors

            A speaker might intend to say “A”, but if they listener hears “B”,.the response may be to invoke “home sovereignty” and not that not being to lock your doors is impractical and dangerous.(thus “open locks” is nonsense)

            I’m just trying to get at the source of the confusion that Jason is noting

          • Roderick T. long

            But I think there are many people (I used to be one of them) who BOTH believe in some form of national sovereignty AND think nation-states don’t have the RIGHT to exclude immigrants (not just that excluding them would be unwise or unvirtuous). And I think they’re right that those two conjuncts are compatible, even if I no longer think both conjuncts are true.

            N.B. I would use “virtuous” rather than “just” in your (A), because in a political context justice usually refers to rights.

          • Ben Kennedy

            I get what you’re saying, I’m just trying to offer a model that explains other people’s thinking. A state can have legitimate power X, and choose to use it in just and unjust ways. Using it in unjust ways doesn’t mean that power X is illegitimate.

            For example, a law may be unjust, but that doesn’t justify using whatever means necessary to escape prison. It means you should ask for the law to be changed and clemency.

          • Roderick T. long

            Right. There’s no inconsistency in saying “The state has legitimate power X, but some ways of exercising that power are unjust.” But there is an inconsistency in saying “The state has legitimate power X, but every conceivable way of exercising that power is unjust.”

            On a side note, your prison case seems like a false alternative. Surely there’s a middle ground between saying that you can use WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY in order to escape (some of those means might be unjust) and saying you have a duty not to escape.

  • DST

    I don’t think you appreciate how fundamental questions of immigration and citizenship are to the definition of a particular country. Just like a state has sovereignty over a (hopefully) well-defined geographic area , it also has jurisdiction over a certain, defined set of people. That type of jurisdiction or sovereignty is entirely distinct from the issue of what a state can do within that jurisdiction. The questions are not susceptible to the same types of arguments. You may be right that the most easily defensible state is one with open borders (although I doubt it), but you can’t reuse the same arguments you use for, say, free speech.

    • King Goat

      This seems to be a series of conclusory statements. Why is the ‘type of jurisdiction or sovereignty entirely distinct from the issue of what a state can do with that jurisdiction?’ Seems to me Jason can point to a relevant similarity-they both involve government coercion of facially non-aggressive actions, but you’ve simply asserted they’re in fact ‘entirely distinct’ and therefore ‘not susceptible to the same types of arguments,’ and then simply repeated that assertion plugging in a specific example.

      • DST

        I don’t think that you’re being any less conclusory than I am.

        You assert that knowingly entering the territory claimed by another individual or entity against the other’s will is a “facially non-aggressive action”. Why? Would you not think it aggressive if someone, knowing you didn’t want them there, entered your property against your will? Such an action seems easily distinguishable from, say, engaging in “obscene” speech or injecting a prohibited substance into one’s own body.

        • King Goat

          “Such an action seems easily distinguishable from, say, engaging in “obscene” speech or injecting a prohibited substance into one’s own body.”

          Distinguish away, I’m all ears (or eyes in this case).

          • DST

            1. a) A knowing trespass can reasonably be taken, at a low standard of proof, as evidence of intent to cause physical harm to person or property of another.

            b) Telling dirty jokes in a nightclub to willing participants can, under no standard of proof whatsoever, be taken as evidence of intent to cause physical harm to another.

            Do you disagree with either (a) or (b)? If not, I think they’ve been distinguished in a meaningful sense.

            2. I don’t know what part of illegal immigration isn’t covered by “knowingly entering the territory claimed by another…entity against the [entity’s] will.”

          • DST, suppose I live on the border and the immigrant crosses directly onto my property and stays there. Suppose further that I have no problem with this. Do you call this an aggressive action or a non-aggressive one?

          • DST

            When I specified a low standard of proof, I tried to convey that not all, and in fact, possibly not even a majority, of instances under consideration would in fact turn out to involve hostile intent.

            So, to your question, I would not consider it to be aggressive, no. But those are a rather narrow set of facts, and can be easily changed into situations in which there would be aggression, in my opinion. If there are two co-tenants, for example, one of which wants the person gone, then i think the occupation becomes aggressive.

          • King Goat

            I don’t think any ‘open borders’ proponents argue that migrants have a right to enter private property against the owner’s will. What they are instead arguing is migrants have the right to travel public roadways and lands and to enter, work and live on the private property of any willing person.

          • DST

            Do they really? I’ve never heard an open-borders advocate argue ONLY that migrants can travel public roadways. The arguments I’ve heard ultimately reach the conclusion that migrants, perhaps after some time, should have access to all rights and services as citizens, and perhaps become citizens themselves. It seems like a bait-and-switch: argue for “freedom of movement,” and then, oops, these migrants have been here for a while, of course they have to become citizens now.

          • Great. So we agree that when an immigrant crosses over into another country to interact with someone who has invited them, this is not aggression.

            That’s how I, personally, see all or most immigration. Just because some people didn’t invite them doesn’t mean some other folks don’t want to trade with them, hire them, etc. On some level, an immigrant is always invited.

          • DST

            Sorry, I suppose I was responding to only half of your question. I don’t think your first example is one of aggression against the landowner, but clearly, it would be against the state in which the landowner exists, so long as it never gave permission to the immigrant to enter.

            Just because some people didn’t invite them doesn’t mean some other folks don’t want to trade with them, hire them, etc

            I think you may be confusing arguments for free trade with arguments for free migration, which in my mind are quite different, as the only the latter implicates jurisdiction over people.

            On some level, an immigrant is always invited.

            If 1% of people want to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, then on some level, he’s already exonerated. But in reality, he isn’t.

          • King Goat

            Who is ‘the entity’ and ‘their will’ in your example? The state? If the state is akin to a private landowner, well, that landowner can, within their rights, prohibit unwanted obscenity on their property just as they can unwanted entry. This is kind of Jason’s point.

          • DST

            I didn’t say that states were interchangeable with private landowners, I just said that they both make territorial claims (although typically at different levels, since most individuals are subject to states).

          • King Goat

            In your initial reply to me you invoked the analogy of someone entering my property without my permission. But if states territorial claims are not like mine as a private landowner in a variety of ways there’s no reason to assume that trespass shows or works the same thing in the two cases.

          • DST

            …except in the case of aggression, which is what I was talking about.

        • Roderick T. long

          I hereby claim your house as my Territory. So if you enter your own house without my permission, are you thereby aggressing against me? No. So you can’t really think that “knowingly entering the territory claimed by another individual or entity against the other’s will” is sufficient for aggression.

          As for whether your entering MY property against my will is aggression, sure (assuming my ownership is legitimate). But the territory of a country is not the property of the government (unless we assume communism). If I invite an immigrant onto my property as a customer, employee, tenant, guest, or business partner, and the government tries to prevent this, surely it’s the government rather than then immigrant that’s guilty of aggression.

          • DST

            1. Are you knowingly making a specious claim against my property? If so, then any claim that I’m being aggressive by entering it would be equally specious. If not, then your assertion that I would be aggressing against you would be of equal validity as your claim on the disputed territory. Your analysis seems to assume some degree of adjudication of the rightness of my claim that you don’t fully explain.

            2. a. I don’t think that you need to assume that private ownership and state jurisdiction are equivalent to see the parallel between the two with respect to the right to exclude. Clearly, there are differences, not least of which is that multiple private property claims exist entirely within the territory claimed by a single state, and so the two are on different levels, both geographically, and legally.

            However, they both have at least one thing in common, which is that they are, by definition, exclusive. I can keep my neighbors off my ranch, and the Feds can keep the Canadian government from taking over Minnesota. From that example, you might think that these territorial claims only work within a single level, that is, individuals can keep competing individuals out, and governments can keep competing governments out. But if a state’s claim to its territory is in some sense superior to the claims of the landowners within the state’s territory, then surely it’s also superior to the claims of citizens of other countries as well.

            b. What’s odd about your argument, and others like it from BHLers, is that it just ignores the state’s claims altogether. It acts as if the state doesn’t claim borders for itself, and therefore there’s no point, geographically and legally, at which it can exercise its right to exclusion. If someone is legally within a state, that is, has already passed the borders of the state, you *might* have an argument that a state preventing an immigrant from entering your land is aggression. But the border belongs to the state, and that’s where it’s exercising its jurisdiction.

          • Roderick T. long

            1. I don’t see why it matters whether the person making the claim is sincere or not. If you trespass on my property innocently, it’s still my property and I can ask you to leave. Your claim that if both sides are sincere then their claims have “equal validity” seems to assume moral relativism. Is that intentional on your part? Because if all sincere moral claims are equally valid then your position and mine are equally valid and this discussion is pointless.

            2a. The problem, as I see it, is that the state’s purported right to decide who can and who can’t enter the country is INCONSISTENT with a private owner’s right to decide who can and who can’t enter her property.

            2b. Of course the state CLAIMS a right to control its borders. The question at issue is whether that claim is legitimate. Even for those who believe in national sovereignty, that right doesn’t logically follow from national sovereignty. All that’s required for national sovereignty is that the state’s laws (those that are legitimate) apply to everyone within the territory, whether native or immigrant.

          • DST

            1. I don’t know if I’m making a moral claim, but yes, I suppose it is relativistic in some sense (although I wouldn’t use that term). An analysis of aggression need not be zero-sum, with one person unequivocally in the right, and the other unequivocally in the wrong. As an example, imagine two men walking home in the dark who mistake each other for a prowler, and so attack each other. Both men could have reasonable claim of self-defense, in which case neither should be charged with assault. Claims to land may be zero-sum, but claims of aggression need not be, it seems to me.

            2.a. You’re right that they can be inconsistent. A state setting an age of consent is inconsistent with my right to choose who to have sex with. A state banning threats of violence is inconsistent with my right to say whatever I please. I know this is rather hackneyed language, but I think we would both agree that “no right is unlimited.” Pointing out that a limitation exists isn’t an argument against the limitation (although neither is it an argument in favor of it).

            Sure, I can invite you onto my land. But if, in the process of getting to my land, you cross a border that a state claims, that state gets a say. You can make an argument against the state taking particular action, but it has to be more substantial than, “I invited him.”

            2.b. You’re right, if you’re talking about *territorial* sovereignty. But as I said, states exercise a *personal* jurisdiction as well. Often, perhaps almost always, these two jurisdictions seem not to conflict at all. But sometimes they do, which is how we know that they’re distinct. As an example, take diplomatic immunity. If it were true that “[a]ll that’s required for national sovereignty is that the state’s laws (those that are legitimate) apply to everyone within the territory, whether native or immigrant,” then the state wouldn’t grant such immunity, and those Turkish thugs bashing Armenian Genocide activists in D.C. early last year would have faced the same assault charges as any American citizen.

          • Roderick T. long

            1. Right, but I don’t take aggression to be about moral blameworthiness. If I reasonably but mistakenly take you to be a threat, and so I attack you, I may not be blameworthy, but I’m still an aggressor.

            More broadly, most of the major disputes over rights of any sort are ones where most of the people on both sides are sincere. A principle of the form “you don’t count as violating a right unless you agree that you’re violating a right” would wipe out nearly all disputes over rights.

            2a. But you don’t have a right to have sex with anyone you choose. You only have a right to have sex with any *consenting* person you choose. Laws forbidding you to have sex with people too young to be able to give genuine consent don’t violate that right.

            I don’t talk in terms of conflict of rights, since by “right” I mean an all-things-considered right, not a prima facie right. All-things-considered rights can’t conflict. So I wouldn’t agree that “no right is unlimited.” any right is unlimited if you define precisely enough what it’s a right to.

            2b. It’s true that states do often claim a personal jurisdiction (as when the u.s. taxes expats), but first, that doesn’t bolster border-control claims; only territorial jurisdiction has any hope of doing that; and second, even if personal jurisdiction did bolster border-control claims, personal jurisdiction isn’t necessary for national sovereignty, so that wouldn’t show that national sovereignty requires border control.

            On the diplomatic immunity issue, what I intended with my “all that’s required” sentence was that NO MORE than laws applying to everyone within the territory is needed for national sovereignty. In other words, I was intending a sufficiency claim, not a necessity claim, so diplomatic immunity isn’t a counterexample.

            That said, diplomatic immunity does put a STRAIN on territorial sovereignty. To see why, take it to the extreme: imagine a country in which 97% of the residents were foreign diplomats. (That’s a little easier to imagine if we envision a very small country.) If diplomats in that case were exempt from the state’s laws, would we still want to call this a case of territorial sovereignty?

    • SK0000

      1. Since when do states standardly have jurisdiction over a certain, defined set of people as well as a territory? How does the nationalist reconcile that with universal national sovereignty? e.g. A has jurisdiction over B, B goes to territory X, where C has jurisdiction. 2. Do you believe states may control who has children, and what those children are like? Even if you’re right about states, we could still generalise from principles of national sovereignty and show we’re better off focusing on what rights individuals have.
      3. Why is the ‘type of jurisdiction or sovereignty entirely distinct from the issue of what a state can do with that jurisdiction?

      • DST

        1. I agree that jurisdiction over territory seems to be more comprehensible (barring unusual tectonic activity), but states regularly claim jurisdiction over their citizens by, for instance, sending out navies to safeguard them in international waters or negotiating with foreign states with respect to them.

        2. I honestly don’t see the connection.

        3. Perhaps a bad analogy, but saying that A is a citizen of B is like saying that M is a child of N. Both statements describe a relationship, but claims about what that relationship entail cannot be made without first making a claim that the relationship exists. Perhaps I worded my point poorly in my first comment, but it seems like the question of jurisdiction is logically prior to the other questions Brennan was getting at, like free speech.

        • SK0000

          1. They’re not really cases of a state having jurisdiction, strictly speaking. Both of those cases concern international jurisdiction, moreover. “Responsibility” or something like that may be better.
          2. If a state may define the set of people who fall under its jurisdiction, in the way u seem to mean, then why can’t it restrict existing members’ reproductive rights? This is a version of the argument JB makes in the post, just applied to what u believe about states.
          3. That’s not clear. Terms like “citizen” and “child” may imply certain rights and responsibilities. This would undermine your claims about logical priority.

          • DST

            1. I agree that jurisdiction over people isn’t exactly the same as jurisdiction over territory, but those two concepts seem much closer to each other than they do to, say, speech regulation.

            2. I don’t see why that follows. If a state has control over immigration, it might follow that it can withhold citizenship even from those born within its territory, but reproduction seems like an entirely different issue, since it involves individuals that are, presumably, already citizens. It’s conceivable, but in my mind not desirable, for a state to control both reproduction and immigration, but one doesn’t imply the other anymore than freedom of speech implies anything about immigration or vice versa.

            3. They ***might***. That’s sort of my point. Establishing that a relationship exists seems like it comes before a determination of what that relationship entails.

          • SK0000

            1. It’s not the same at all, and it’s actually pretty subversive re: how nation states actually work (I like it though – it may have a voluntarist, cosmopolitan flavor.)
            2. It’s not about withholding citizenship. Newborns are newcomers, in the same way migrants are. Immigration also involves citizens. Immigration restrictions are also restrictions on citizens’ property, association, etc. This is QI: https://www.academia.edu/8058843/Brezger_Cassee_2016_Immigrants_and_Newcomers_by_Birth_-_Do_Statist_Arguments_Imply_a_Right_to_Exclude_Both
            3. But -why- does it seem like that to you? Again: Suppose two people have sex, and some offspring result. -That- relationship comes before a determination of what the “parent” and “child” relationships entail, but what the “parent” and “child” relationships entail cannot be logically prior because the entailments are baked in at the conceptual level. I’d wager things like “citizen” and “subject” are the same, though they may have different stuff baked in depending on the context. These concepts may of course have some pretty nasty stuff baked in, but that’s irrelevant re: logical priority.

          • DST

            1. I honestly don’t know how you can say that, given the extant to which states fight for the rights of their citizens when those citizens are traveling outside the borders of those states. If there was no similarity between territorial and personal jurisdiction, states would be oblivious to foreign governments, say, kidnapping their citizens. But we know that’s not the case.
            2. Unless national borders reach into some supernatural plane, people don’t enter a country through birth the same way they enter it by plane or boat. In the latter, I’m crossing a border, in the latter, I’m not.
            3. The biological fact of parentage is logically prior to any moral stipulation of rights and duties. In the same way, a claim of personal jurisdiction by a state is prior to a determination of the rights and duties of the citizen and state with respect to each other. If that weren’t the case, states would be much more in accord as to what those rights and duties were. When a state claims jurisdiction over someone, all it’s doing is telling other states, “Hands off, this one’s mine!” The relationship of personal jurisdiction is, first and foremost, one of exclusion of competitors, just as with territorial jurisdiction.

  • Jeff R.

    Okay, but is a debate over what rights people have likely to be any more productive than the above dialogue? I can’t see how.

    “People have rights to A, B, C, based on my moral intuitions.”
    “Based on my intiutions, they have rights A and B only.”

    That’s it. That’s the dialogue. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

  • hgfalling

    Do they really argue this way? The response “What, you don’t believe in national sovereignty?” sounds to me more like the kind of thing people respond to “Open borders are the only just system,” or “People who don’t support open borders cannot be taken seriously when they claim to care about the poor,” etc. In the hypothetical conversation you mention, isn’t the obvious response “Yes, and states should use their national sovereignty to open their borders?”

  • Sean II

    This is a specious refutation.

    The whole thing falls apart if you simply remove the word “sovereignty”.

    Jay: “I advocate open borders.”

    Me: “Oh, so you don’t believe in nations?”

    Jay pretty much has to say no here. In 99% of cases the concept of nationhood is just a frank overlap for ethnicity. When not that, it means people sharing a common language or culture.

    Open borders specifically proposes to do away with both conditions. Strike that, with all conditions. It wants no limit on who can become the citizen of a state – no ethnic limit, no linguistic limit, no cultural limit.

    Very obviously that means the end of “nations” as we have hitherto used the term.

    • Peter from Oz

      Bugger, I was just about to say something similar.
      ”Sovereignty” is areally not relevant in this argument. The Brexit vote was about sovereignty. The question of open borders is more about whether those in a nation wish to welcome others. They can give the power to the sovereign to enact limitations on entery by foreigners or elect to make their government open the borders. It is a political question.

    • In 99% of cases the concept of nationhood is just a frank overlap for
      ethnicity. When not that, it means people sharing a common language or
      culture.

      But it is a remarkably important 1%, which includes places like The United States of America, India, The Ukraine, and Switzerland. The number of these examples might be small, but their strength suggests that there might be more to the concept of a nation than ethnicity and culture after all.

      • Brooklyn Boricua

        I am not sure either your or Sean’s claims are quite correct. The number of states presenting a “civic nation” for recognition to the international community, but which lack any dominant recognizable “ethnic center” for that nation, is quite large. The number of states that seem to have done so with the success–the “remarkably important” “strength,” as you put it–of the United States and Switzerland is much smaller. I am not sure I would include the Ukraine among them.

        • There’s room for healthy debate about that, but the thrust of my point is that we have already seen that divorcing the term “nation” from the term “culture” does not automatically lead to disaster and is not historically unprecedented.

        • Sean II

          “The number of states presenting a “civic nation” for recognition to the international community, but which lack any dominant recognizable “ethnic center” for that nation, is quite large.”

          Try and list them.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Indonesia. India. Belgium. Guyana. Suriname. Iraq. Afghanistan. Canada. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Singapore. This is just off the top of my head. I haven’t even gotten to Africa yet, where ethnostates (like Somalia) are the exception.

          • Sean II

            I count four basket cases of poverty and/or conflict, one recent genocide site, one Hindu dominated society with caste and sect violence, one microstate famously stratified by ethnicity, one that shouldn’t be on the list at all (Indonesia), plus Canada and Belgium.

            Okay, fine. But how far do Canada and Belgium get you, with their very simple two stripe version of diversity?

            Do those examples remotely support that idea you can mix ANY number of groups and still end up with a common culture?

            And why, when you talk to Canadians and Belgians, do they always take care to insist they DON’T have a common culture?

          • King Goat

            I like the goal movement here.

            There’s lots of nations like this.
            Oh yeah, list them!
            List.
            Well, OK, but they’re mostly awful.

          • Sean II

            Yeah, it’s a real trick card I stashed up my sleeve, not wanting to live in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan.

            I really should have specified that before.

          • King Goat

            Your argument was that open borders types are against *nations* because nations just are *people sharing a common language or culture,* then when someone pointed out that lots of nations are like that you doubled down and dared him to list them, and he did. So now you shift the goals: well, you can have nations, just not good ones (well, except for these exceptions….).

            But of course, such nuance in your original comment wouldn’t have sounded so cool…

          • Sean II

            Wrong. I said from the start that 99% of nations are just overlaps to ethnicity.

            You don’t answer that argument by naming a few exceptions.

            A few exceptions does not equal, as you put it, “lots”.

          • King Goat

            He named a dozen *off his head,* *immediately* (look at the respective time stamps) and nodded to an *entire continent* rife with them.

          • Sean II

            Some of those examples, weren’t.

          • King Goat

            They were all examples of *nations,* which is what you started out talking about: “In 99% of cases the concept of nationhood is just a frank overlap for ethnicity.” Then you went on, when challenged, to offer qualification after qualification (well, I’m not talking about small states! or ‘non-successful’ states! or states with strife! or…). You’ve got 99% of an ever smaller pie there…

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Goat! Did you get my plea to save my comment? This stuff is gold, dammit! Think of the children!

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Please reread my original claim.

          • Sean II

            Oh shit, very sorry about that.

            I’m juggling a lot of responses and I jumped the gun on your comment. Forgive me.

          • Happy_wanderer

            What about the UK? English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish (50%ish of Northern Irelanders), The Cornish. And let’s not forget the most important of them all, Foresters from the Forest of Dean.

            I’m afraid for all you enthic cultural nationalists, this little Island we live in is a living and breathing example of how people can overcome their so called ethnicity and live with others, both withstanding those who’d use ethnicity to divide.

          • Sean II

            Can’t believe I’m having to say this:

            England and Wales are not demographically distant in the same way that England and, say, Ghana are distant.

            The first distance is very small. The second is very large.

            Open border advocates claim that NO distance matters.

            You can’t support that by saying “look, here, at how well things worked out in this one case, with some of the smallest evolutionary distances imaginable.”

          • I think point in time is relevant, though. Today, there is not a lot of daylight between the English and the Welsh, but 500 years ago there was a lot more. 500 years ago and Englishman could have plausibly gone his whole life without ever traveling to Wales or meeting a Welshman. So, while I agree that it’s silly to say they’re wildly different cultures today, I don’t think it was quite so silly in the 1500s.

          • King Goat

            I doubt you could say there’s more cultural distance between a Mexican living in Mexico City and an ‘American’ living in San Antonio today than you could say there was between an Englishman and a Welshman in 1500. The former probably both ate at McDonald’s today, accessed people or media that spoke both Spanish and English, watched the Spurs game last night and played Candy Crush on their iPhones.

          • Sean II

            Pick any point in time you like. The difference between England and Wales is a tiny fraction of the difference between either and Ghana.

            Indeed, consider your own argument more deeply:

            If the difference between England and Wales was once regarded as a big deal, what does that suggest about humans?

            You’re offering it as evidence that we can overcome tribalism.

            But it works equally well in showing just how much tribalism we have to overcome.

            For if it takes hundreds of years to meld the English with the Welsh, why would anyone think we can in the space of a couple decades meld all groups at once?

          • My thesis is simpler than that: The world is shrinking, thanks to technology. What was once regarded as a great divide is now hardly even balked at. And the more we learn about people on the other side of our divides, the more we discover that we have in common with them.

            That might not have been your experience, but it’s been mine.

          • Sean II

            I hope neither of us would be so irresponsible as to judge the issue on personal experience. Big questions deserve big samples.

            That said, my experience is not so different from yours. It happens that many of the people I know are doctors and scientists. And sure enough: if you look at a residency class, you can’t help but believe in the cosmopolitan dream. Diversity works like a commercial in such company. You get an almost physical high from the experience of seeing it. “Behold, these people who look so different, who might in another century have been sent out to kill each other…are here today working together, saving lives, falling in love, having children, being friends, etc.”

            But then you look at things on the political level, and the high comes crashing down. Turns out every group is unhappy with its place in the diverse order. Why so few black astronauts? Why so many white CEOs? Why so many Asian programmers? Why so few Asian jocks? Why no Aboriginal runway models? The number and intensity of such grievances is growing rapidly.

            In fact, the present state the art in left wing politics can be boiled down to two demands:

            1. Group differences must be eliminated.

            2. We must increase the number of different groups

            I see a bad moon rising.

            Ryan, please do t mistake me: I recognize that violence has declined. I realize that people are doing more of the snark it out on Twitter and less of the knives in the street kind of inter-group conflict. And of course I’m happy about that.

            But I can’t ignore the political trend, swirling in the distance.

            Here’s the harsh truth: the way you get to lead a group in our society is by convincing them their position relative to other groups is a tort, to be remedied by state intervention.

            Tell me: how do you see that ending?

          • I guess I see all this as a problem with leftist politics, not as a problem with immigration and cosmopolitanism. And the good news is that it’s probably easier to defeat leftist identity politics than it is to defeat immigration. I just read a great interview with Jordan Peterson where he kind of described how to do it: When you spot animus possession, don’t respond to it on its own terms. And it works.

          • Sean II

            “I guess I see all this as a problem with leftist politics, not as a problem with immigration and cosmopolitanism.”

            That’s a bit like saying “I see type
            II diabetes as a problem of the pancreas, not a problem of sugar consumption. Just fix the pancreas, problem solved.”

            Um, okay. But we currently don’t have a way to fix a pancreas. So we have to control sugar. It’s the thing we can.

            Neither you, nor I, nor Cato, nor anyone has a way to stop people from resenting statistical disparities associated with their group, and forming grievance factions around them.

            And yet, the sugar continues to pour.

          • But nobody can stop immigration, either. For all the borders you find on a map, people are still migrating all over the world. People want to travel and interact with each other. People want to plant their roots in faraway lands. It’s been happening for eons, it’s not just a modern phenomenon.

            So, of the two, I think leftist identity politics is actually the easier one to defeat. Then again, I don’t want to defeat immigration.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Why exactly would it be harder to defeat immigration? Especially since all it would require would be a change in government policy instead of trying to turn an entire culture around.

          • For reasons mentioned in my previous comment. Immigration hasn’t ever stopped. It’s with been with us for thousands of years. If trying to stop immigration isn’t “trying to turn an entire culture around,” nothing is. 🙂

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            No, I’m still unclear on that. One does not need to “turn an entire culture around”; one just needs to prevent people from entering a country. In Israel they are building a fence across the Negev. No one expects to literally stop immigration with this or any measure, any more than they expect to stop murder with enforcement of anti-murder laws (talk about “turning around” a deeply embedded human cultural characteristic!); they do expect to have some significant effect on it. Which they do seem to. (Even our own defenses, supposedly inadequate as they have been, have clearly slowed immigration down to a tiny fraction of what it would be under pre-WWI open borders.)

          • Then what you mean by “defeat” is “have some significant effect on it.” Defining “defeat” in that particular way, I agree that it’s easier to “have some significant effect on immigration” than it is to “stop leftist identity politics.”

            But, let’s step out of such narrow language for a moment and consider the present conversation. Sean II, a libertarian, is having a conversation with Ryan, another libertarian, about immigration. One reason Sean II gives for opposing immigration is that it might amplify identity politics. My response to this is that if this is a major objection, then identity politics is the real problem, not immigration. Sean’s response is that he thinks we can stop immigration, not identity politics. I take a look at the migrant workers in my neighborhood and think, no, it’s not quite so easy to just stop the migration of high-demand labor.

            You’re right that some policies can reduce the size of the available migrant workforce, but if two libertarians are arguing over whether to oppose a belief contrary to libertarianism, or oppose a policy that isn’t necessarily in disharmony with libertarianism because the odious belief makes some beneficiaries of that policy unpleasant, I think it’s fair and accurate to say what I said.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Yeah, I guess I really don’t grasp the dialectic here. You both agree that identity politics is wrong, and that its presence in society is corrosive and must be fought. Sean believes that liberal immigration policy will lead to increasing visible statistical inequalities of success, which will lead to deepening group identification and resentment, et cetera. He believes that to hope to fight this is to hope against deeply ingrained human nature. Therefore Sean favors restrictive immigration policies.

            You are not such a pessimist. You think liberal values can be effectively promoted, and identity politics thwarted, even in a society with such visible statistical inequalities between groups. Therefore, and because you prefer liberal immigration ceteris paribus, you favor liberal immigration.

            This seems the clearest way to set out “the present conversation.” So I don’t quite get how it would be correct to say, “It is probably easier to defeat leftist identity politics than it is to defeat immigration.” In this conversational context “defeating immigration” would mean adopting a policy that would greatly reduce the problematic migration patterns, as Sean advocates. Whereas “defeating leftist identity politics” would mean…a much more formidable task, as you now concede. I don’t get where all this stuff like “nobody can stop immigration,” “immigration has been with us for thousands of years,” etc., makes sense in this context. So the teeming masses have always yearned for greener pastures since our ancestors left Africa thousands of years ago, and now they teem at our doorstep. So what? Let them teem and yearn. We can certainly do a lot to affect how many of them make it in–again, as you concede.

            What am I missing?

          • I don’t know what you’re missing. To me, the fact that human migration has occurred literally for as long as humans have existed is ample evidence that it can’t be stopped by decree. To me, the fact that Country X limits some of its immigration only means that Country Y receives more of those immigrants instead, and that the only pertinent issue is whether Country X wants to benefit from a gift to its labor force or not; but that this does not translate into “defeating immigration.” To me, a political trend that developed mostly among young people over the course of my lifetime is not a permanent social change that cannot be reversed.

            Are you missing any of those things?

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            But who wants to “defeat immigration” in the manner you describe? Immigration hawks in Country X only want to limit immigration to Country X. (Whether all immigrants to Country X are to be considered a “gift” to that society is precisely a central matter under dispute.)

          • Opponents of immigration don’t employ arguments that are specific to Country X. It’s not that they think Mexicans will be a boon to China but not to America. No, they instead think that Mexicans themselves have a disposition that makes them bad immigrants. Opponents of immigration don’t want to just match up all the immigrants with a more appropriate country, they want the immigrants to be “anywhere but here.” If immigrants perform poorly in Country Y, they say, “See? This is what happens when you import these immigrants.”

            Even under the present blog post, we’re not talking about immigration to a single country. We’re talking about immigration in the abstract, and some are arguing against it. I’m taking the other side.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            You’re making a commons tragedy / prisoners’ dilemma error here. Let us suppose that we are actually saying, “It is in every country’s best interest to adopt policies impeding all but the most desirable immigrants.” You want to counter, “Well, imagine if every country did that; wouldn’t seem it could ever stop world immigration, could it?” Well, imagine indeed, but that does not change the fact that, however much or little that alleged global goal would be fulfilled, it would always be in a country’s–not America’s in particular, but indeed every country’s–interest to adopt the hawkish immigration policy (something you deny anyway for other reasons, of course). You have moved from what is indeed a generic or generalizable point about the decisions a country might make, and used it to concoct a fictitious global goal of “stopping immigration” that absolutely none of us have ever claimed. That is never a proper move (though it is a very commonly made error in general). Our argument works as it works, no matter how much, or little, that alleged goal is fulfilled.

          • Uh, no. I’m making a basic argument against import quotas. If we don’t import the cheap foreign steel, that doesn’t destroy cheap foreign steel, it just means that some other set of consumers buys it instead. In this analogy, I’m the guy saying, “People produce cheap steel. Let’s get in on the action, sounds great.” Other people are the ones saying, “The steel is cheap because it was produced by incompetent brown people! No one should buy it!”

            It sounds like you’re trying way too hard to raise an objection here.

          • Sean II

            I awake this morning with shame.

            We started out discussing reasonably high level issues – does nationhood entail border control, to what extent does nationhood overlap ethnicity, etc. – but somehow I ended up bickering with a guy about the HDI of Romania, and with another who thinks there was no India before 1947.

            Why did I let myself do it?

          • Serious LOL.

          • SK0000

            We weren’t bickering about the HDI of Romania. We don’t even disagree about the HDI of Romania. We disagree as to the extent of cultural differences between certain countries and, since you introduced HDI as a measure, the viability of HDI as a measure of cultural proximity. But nice try.

          • SK0000

            The reason we proceed from nationhood and border control to claims about HDI is that you believe some -crazy- things about culture and cultural differences between groups, and believe these differences make some contribution to the choice-worthiness of border controls. Hardly strange.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Alright, goddamn it. As I explained to His Majesty, buggy-ass Disqus erased my comment after he upvoted it. I don’t expect you to get back into this, but I’ll attempt a repost because you have forced my hand. For posterity! Behold:

            I did not “arbitrarily trim” shit. India is a young country. “As a matter of history it is NOT a successful case of common culture trumping group ties” precisely because “as a matter of history” it was NOT a case of common culture in any sense at all.

            India is a continent with no history of common national identity that was turned into an administrative unit of the British Empire. Its people were then instructed only a few decades ago to henceforth think of themselves as “Indians”–not long before others in the world, likewise delimited by nothing more socially significant than old colonial administrative boundaries that few had even been aware of, were instructed to think of themselves as “Congolese” or “Beninois.” The difference is in India the identity stuck–and has stuck better and better as time has gone on. Today there is only one state with any serious restiveness on that account, Kashmir.

            So much for politics. What about economics? India’s George Washington saddled it with a planned-economy ideology as intense as anything ever found outside the Communist Bloc itself. Lo and behold, India remained poor. Then, it slowly but steadily began to dismantle its planning apparatus. Lo and behold, as it did so it began to finally grow ever wealthier and wealthier at unprecedented rates. Is it still poor and underperforming? Well, yes. And still saddled with all kinds of economic idiocy yet to be dismantled. This has been happening over the course of more than a quarter century, not a “decade or so.” It is not the sort of pattern you can wave away and say, “Bah, the place is still an armpit so all this proves nothing.”

            The issue is not whether India is still an armpit. (It clearly is.) Nor whether we are prepared to declare it a success. (We clearly are not.) You made a very specific claim about its success as a state. (A state that, I remind you again, is only a few decades old.) You said that India is collapsing into rigid caste and sectarian violence. And almost every word of that is nonsense. India is not collapsing. It has been experiencing decades of improvement in social cohesion, economic development, cultural progress, and so forth. You talk about “rigid castes” whereas caste has been weakening everywhere (to a large extent even in the socialist period, but at a much more rapid clip in the capitalist). Sectarian violence has been an enormous problem in India for centuries, and the country was born in an orgy of it. These days, Amnesty International counts around 100 deaths a year in the entire country from it (punctuated by riots of an extra order of magnitude around every ten years); and India, with the second-highest Muslim population in the world, is one of the few countries not to produce terrorists from that community. Are these good numbers? Of course not. But they’re certainly ones that the days before this oh-so-ridiculous pluralist nationalism was attempted would have envied.

            Again, I emphasize, India has seen steady improvement in its condition over the course of its existence as a nation, which has been the topic at hand. (And the “collapsing into rigid caste…” business is just straight-up nonsense.) I think what has happened is that, instead of simply pointing out that India should hardly be counted as a great success story as of now, you seriously overreached and chose some hyperbolic language that does not at all fit the example.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Everybody uses leftist grievance politics today. Women, gays, trans. Fuck, Sony Pictures just profusely apologized for a scene in Peter Rabbit that trivialized and triggered the food allergy community. The current grievance culture is actually mostly the intellectual descendant of feminism rather than any form of, say, black separatism. Look, for example, at the bizarre, confused, incoherent, and entirely inchoate suite of things we seem to want on behalf of gender equality–in light of the obvious, profound, and persistent differences between the sexes. We don’t seem to know what we want, or to know how exactly to react to all of it.

            What you should say about racial, religious, and cultural diversity–as opposed to the other diversity grievance magnets of sex, sexual orientation, “gender identity,” physical health and ability, and so forth–is that: (1) we can control their spread by controlling immigration; and (2) they are far more likely to result in profound social instability (which you see gathering in the clouds at the horizon despite the relative peace of the present). Those distinctions seem important. But I think if you’re just generally pessimistic that people will inevitably choose to identify with any distinctions that they see, start to bean-count on that factor in every scenario, and recruit the state to equalize things by force, then there will still be plenty of that going on even with homogeneity on the ethnic factors. And without the proper anti-identity political values, people will continue to find more and more increasingly outlandish groups to identify with. I am not so sure the horse really is before the cart as you suggest.

            For now, I myself am not so pessimistic, and believe we can train our culture to downplay the importance of those factors. My concern with immigration is mostly to control it to a rate that enables assimilation to our political values, rather than allowing us to be swamped by foreign ones. A policy targeting high-aptitude aliens, apart from simply being a good idea, would also surely help reduce the group resentment you describe; there’s no need for those we admit to be representative of global averages.

          • Sean II

            1) “The current grievance culture is actually mostly the intellectual descendant of feminism rather than any form of, say, black separatism.”

            Mistake: your confusing noise with action. Feminism is mostly a talk problem. You get a few bad policies but the impact is limited. Meanwhile the problem of black-white differences completely consumes American politics.

            2) “But I think if you’re just generally pessimistic that people will inevitably choose to identify with any distinctions that they see, start to bean-count on that factor in every scenario, and recruit the state to equalize things by force…”

            One doesn’t need to be a pessimist to think that. Just attentive to the news.

            3) ” My concern with immigration is mostly to control it to a rate that enables assimilation to our political values, rather than allowing us to be swamped by foreign ones. A policy targeting high-aptitude aliens, apart from simply being a good idea, would also surely help reduce the group resentment you describe; there’s no need for those we admit to be representative of global averages.”

            If that’s what you believe, we are not true adversaries. That’s pretty damn close to my own position.

          • King Goat

            Why would you say the ‘food allergy community’ is part of ‘leftist grievance politics?’ I live in a very Red county and they’re like Nazis about food allergies.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Bah! Goat! Reply to the “I did not ‘arbitrarily trim’ shit” comment on India you just upvoted! Reply using anything, before you refresh your browser.

            For some reason, your upvote has triggered the spam filter on Disqus, which has been tagging my comments as spam at seemingly random occasions. (I think I’ll get a new account.) If someone replies to it, it’ll appear as a hidden comment you can click on; otherwise it’ll vanish without a trace.

          • King Goat

            I don’t see that comment anymore…Odd. Are you saying my upvote made the comment flag as spam and it was eliminated? That seems passing strange.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Ah, too bad, you must have refreshed. Yes, my comment was up for two hours before you upvoted it and then it was immediately sent to the spam filter. It’s not the first time things things have happened that way, with that same timing, on this account, so I think it’s no coincidence. It’s a weird bug, but there are a lot of weird bugs on this account, which I think I will jettison after today. One day they suddenly sent all my comments on one particular website to spam, and continue to do so. I complained to Disqus, and Disqus sent the complaint to spam. Fuck Disqus. They’re decent in a lot of ways but their spam filter is ridiculously buggy and unpredictable–especially but not exclusively on this account. I’m leaving this up because everyone should know it.

          • King Goat

            It was a great comment, very unfortunate. It’s crazy, why would an upvote cause a flagging as spam???

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Ah, well thanks. I’d post it again, but it would just get caught again. So it will have to live on as legend, unless Sean or someone else has yet to refresh his browser and manages to save it.

            Upvote causing flagging is outrageous and bizarre, but stranger bugs have happened. The Disqus spam filter just appears to be appallingly poorly written. Disqus really is a ridiculous excuse for a service in 2018.

          • King Goat

            I think one way to ‘defeat identity politics’ is for the Right not to demonize the groups that identity politics is waiting to court. If the Right offered tax cuts, school vouchers etc., without Confederate statues, ‘Mexicans are rapists,’ and paeans to how women are only happy when they stay home and have dinner ready for their husband by 5:30 it might help.

          • I’m in total agreement with you here.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            By the way, why no pygmy runway models is the real question. And I do see a persistent dearth of Samoans.

          • King Goat

            “But I can’t ignore the political trend, swirling in the distance.”

            Interesting, in the previous thread you came down rather hard on Levy for chicken-little-ing something that was a long process away from being terrible…

          • King Goat

            But Ghana isn’t the main source of our immigration, not even close. It’s Mexico and that’s why I chose it as the example. You like arguments based on majority-though-not-all generalizations, well, the vast majority of our immigration is Mexico and those people are closer to we are than the Welsh and English were then, and somehow the latter made a really good go at it.

          • Sean II

            Mexicans mestizos are more distant from any European group, than any two European groups are to each other.

            So you’re talking out your hat.

          • King Goat

            And yet, there you go. I’ve already detailed how a Mexican in Mexico City today has more in common with an ‘American’ in San Antonio than these close genetic cousins had 500 years ago. You’re just stomping your foot now and saying ‘but they can’t, because they’re different haplogroups!’

          • SK0000

            Maybe he believes haplogroups are strongly connected to personality etc. If that’s the case, he should publish his findings in nature and rock the scientific community etc.

          • King Goat

            It’s what he believes, but here’s the thing, even if true it’s just not dispositive here. The Mexican in Mexico City and the American in San Antonio live in practically the same culture. They both watch Spurs games, they both eat at KFC, they both wear Levis and dance to Beyonce and read each other’s Tweets. Their media-entertainment-economic-recreation markets are the same. They’ve got way more in common and could make their way in each other’s worlds far better than could the Welsh and Englishman of 1500 *even if* it’s true that if you took Welsh, English and American, Mexican babies and adopted them out the first two would have higher correlation on personality tests. We’re talking predispositions here versus heavy cultural immersion.

          • SK0000

            Sorry, I should have said “so strongly connected that they override cultural immersion.” I agree with you that it’s all nonsense. See my above post about Europeans vs. Mexicans and Europeans vs. WASP Americans.

          • SK0000

            Mexican mestizo and WASP American, on and around the US-Mexico border, or in any of the US states for that matter, have less in common, on average, than the WASP American and, say, someone from Transylvania or Sicily? Doesn’t wash at all.

          • Sean II

            Romania is 27 places higher than Mexico on the human development index. Much closer to the US.

            If Sicily had its own HDI, it’d be about 35 places higher than Mexico.

            So congrats. You cherry picked two of the shittiest places in Europe, and you still managed to be wrong.

          • SK0000

            You’ve missed the point.
            It wasn’t a claim about convergent development. It was a claim about cultural proximity. Convergent development is just one part of that. Using HDI as the dominant measure, Qatar, South Korea, and Japan are more similar to the US than Romania and Mexico are. That’s even more stupid than believing there are, on average, deep cultural differences between Mexicans, Romanians, and white North Americans.

          • Happy_wanderer

            Nah. That’s just relativism. Some people think you’re totally alien if you’re a few tens of miles away. Indeed, history is that it’s precisely those closest to you that you hate the most (think the English and the French, the Normans and the Saxons, the the Hutu and the Tutsi, Mancs and Scousers, Paras and Marines.

            It’s all gibberish, just artificial stuff in people’s minds. I’m not saying peoples minds aren’t important, but you can just as easily change your mind to like someone as to chop up his family with a machete, if you allow people to use views like yours about the immutability of race to do so. (I’m not accusing you of anything here, just saying that racism and nationalism has a fiction at its heart)

          • Sean II

            “It’s all gibberish, just artificial stuff in people’s minds”

            The next twenty years are gonna break your heart.

          • SK0000

            It’s dangerous nonsense, no doubt

      • Sean II

        True, but the risk of overstatement here is high.

        The U.S. is an exception to the historic rule of ethny=nation, but at first only for a bad reason (slavery), then later only as an asterisk-laden partial exception.

        Contrary to popular myth, our big bold experiment with open borders was hardly that, because most people on earth lacked the mobility to take advantage.

        So in effect we ended up with a ethnically selective pipeline that added more Europeans to an already European ancestry base.

        And of course no one who tells this story honestly can omit to notice even that experiment was shut down in 1925. We’d be fools to assume this happened for no reason at all.

        What followed next was 60 years of heavy assimilation pressure behind a virtual wall.

        The current experiment – drifting toward open borders by sheer inertia – hasn’t run its course yet.

        But does anyone really want to look at us today and say “Why, it seems like our common culture is easily taking the place of musty old ethnic kinship. Just look how warmly we’ve all come together!”

        Nor indeed would you want to use India or Ukraine as an example. Because those places suggest that in the absence of ethnic kinship, nations collapse into either a) rigid caste and sectarian violence, or b) recurrent victimization.

        Switzerland doesn’t get you much further, because it’s just three kinds of white folks practicing a tourist village level of exhibited whiteness.

        So that leaves maybe Brazil. Brazil comes closest to pulling the trick card of common culture from the shuffled deck of distant ethnies.

        But of course becoming Brazil is exactly what skeptics like me are afraid of.

        • I think you’re moving a bit too quickly to dismiss the idea here.

          The early United States was a remarkably ethnically diverse place, consisting of people who spoke Dutch, people who spoke German, people who spoke French, people who spoke Spanish, and people who spoke English. It’s hard to make this jive with the picture you’re trying to paint. When else has a nation full of people who speak many different languages come together voluntarily and formed a nation that later went on to sustain the highest levels of immigration in the world for a long, long time? (A trend that even arguably continues to this day.) This isn’t just a weird exception that ended in 1925. It’s a major hole in the argument that nations must be ethno-states in order to be stable.

          I’m also baffled as to why you don’t think India is an excellent example of the stability of diverse nations with open borders. First of all, because Akbar the Great might have actually invented multiculturalism, and subsequently built one of the largest and wealthiest empires of his time. (Surely no coincidence that tax forgiveness was also one of his innovations.) For hundreds of years, it was a wealthy, successful picture of a modern nation, and it only devolved into violent balkanism after the British Empire deliberately carved it up that way. And yet, even today India pracitices something close to true open borders with Nepal. It’s hard to understand the claim that, historically speaking, India is a bad example here.

          But we shouldn’t get bogged down in trying to defend one or two examples. The over-arching point is that many nations across the eons have successfully flourished as multicultural entities. We can always say, “Yeah, but… they’re not perfect,” and that’s true. But the most successful nations of the present day are also those with the most lenient immigration policies, which is a hard fact to square with the claim that open borders is a disbelief in nations.

          • Sean II

            Longer reply later, but quick one for now:

            What would happen if you went on Twitter and tried to describe English + German + Dutch as “incredibly diverse”.

            You’d get screamed at. People would point out those are close born siblings in the family of white folks.

            And they’d be right.

          • Well, we seem to agree that the same kind of multiculturalism makes India diverse, so applying the same dimensions to early America is fair IMHO.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            See, this is where I think you and everyone else here may be talking past each other.

            Entities like the Slovaks, Albanians, Turks, and Armenians have developed a well-established sense of ethnicity, which has become rather rigid and difficult to acquire. For international purposes the ethnicity of, for example, Albanians of Turkish descent is simply Albanian, but within Albania these people remain (however well treated–indeed, perhaps quite happily) permanently outside the ethnicity at the defining core of that nationality.

            However difficult it may be to tell the various “ethnicities” apart on 23andMe, these distinctions have become firmly socially entrenched in the minds of the populations; and this is why liberals have never really backed off on the basic idea that the most “natural” and promising political boundaries will do something to respect them instead of resembling, say, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The liberal-order ethnostate has been from square one organized around these distinctions; the idea of keeping blacks, yellows, and whites apart was not even originally on the radar screen.

            So yeah. Slovaks, Albanians, Turks, and Armenians are “all white guys.” To take a bunch of people with firmly developed senses of ethnicity, from a continent that had firmly established the practice of vicious warfare between states dominated by said ethnicities–that is a multiethnic state accomplishment as notable as any other out there. To wave your hand and say, “Pssh, they’re all white guys,” is to miss the point.

            Perhaps it is also the case that mixing biological whites, blacks, yellows, etc. together in one society presents a special, serious stumbling block to social cohesion. You’ve suggested this before. However much this matter may call for study, though, it hasn’t been what others here have been talking about. They’ve been talking about the concepts of ethnicity that have actually driven nation-state identity.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Follow up: I emphasize again that the U.S. and Switzerland each have rather unusual characteristics that have made multiethnic states more viable. You can’t simply abolish them where they exist, or carve them out of colonial Africa, and say, “All the same! We’re all one world, aren’t we? This should work!” It does not. The great majority of present situations would be well served by states associating at least some sense of ethnic identity with their nationality. The U.S. is not one of these.

        • Brooklyn Boricua

          You’re all over the place here. Maybe I am too. Maybe this is inevitable when we’re talking about such ill defined terms.

          First of all, India is not “collapsing into rigid caste and sectarian violence.” It’s hard to believe you’re even describing the country commonly known by that name.

          India, while certainly quite awful in many ways, has been anything but “collapsing.” It is, in fact, more prosperous and less violent than ever. Caste strictures are weakening at an unheard-of pace, with rather less violence than would be expected for such a rapid breakdown of a millennia-old social order. The present state of all the above remains of course appalling by international standards, but the progress since economic liberalization is staggering. (Sectarianism is slightly harder to predict, but is certainly not worse than it has been historically.)

          It would appear that you can take an enormous, dirt-poor, violent, caste-ridden, religiously divided, multiethnic country that had never in history formed a political unit, and create a people with a strong sense of nationhood that would begin to shake off its backwardness and prosper economically as soon as it began to nurture bourgeois values and junk its idiotic founding ideology of socialism and romantic primitivism. It’s nobody’s idea of a utopia, but it’s also hardly an example of a country that isn’t moving in the right direction or exceeding expectations. So sorry you old sourpuss, this particular example isn’t looking too bad these days for liberalism. Or environmentalism.

          Second…I think I basically addressed it in another comment.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            Follow up: I would agree that until India actually achieves a condition that the world would aspire to, not merely “moving in the right direction” from a horrible past, it certainly isn’t cause for current ethnostates to junk their “ethnocommitments” and decide, “looks like ethnicity doesn’t matter!” Indeed, I do not think that is a good idea. For many, many, many reasons India did not have anything close to the ideal conditions for building a non-ethnic nationalism that the U.S. did.

            But I do think it is starting (again, after an exceedingly late start) to give us an idea of what can be done with awful initial conditions and even the most shittily executed commitment to capitalism.

          • Sean II

            Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

            When discussing the nation know as India, you don’t get to just arbitrarily trim the timeline to capture the last decade or so.

            You have to reckon with the whole thing. And India, as a whole, is notorious for caste and sectarian violence.

            As a matter of history it is NOT a successful case of common culture trumping group ties.

            Muslim, Hindu, , Sikh, and Tamil do not share a common culture. Nor do they share a “live and let live” coexistence with each other.

          • Brooklyn Boricua

            I did not “arbitrarily trim” shit. India is a young country. “As a matter of history it is NOT a successful case of common culture trumping group ties” precisely because “as a matter of history” it was NOT a case of common culture in any sense at all.

            India is a continent with no history of common national identity that was turned into an administrative unit of the British Empire. Its people were then instructed only a few decades ago to henceforth think of themselves as “Indians”–not long before others in the world, likewise delimited by nothing more socially significant than old colonial administrative boundaries that few had even been aware of, were instructed to think of themselves as “Congolese” or “Beninois.” The difference is in India the identity stuck–and has stuck better and better as time has gone on. Today there is only one state with any serious restiveness on that account, Kashmir.

            So much for politics. What about economics? India’s George Washington saddled it with a planned-economy ideology as intense as anything ever found outside the Communist Bloc itself. Lo and behold, India remained poor. Then, it slowly but steadily began to dismantle its planning apparatus. Lo and behold, as it did so it began to finally grow ever wealthier and wealthier at unprecedented rates. Is it still poor and underperforming? Well, yes. And still saddled with all kinds of economic idiocy yet to be dismantled. This has been happening over the course of more than a quarter century, not a “decade or so.” It is not the sort of pattern you can wave away and say, “Bah, the place is still an armpit so all this proves nothing.”

            The issue is not whether India is still an armpit. (It clearly is.) Nor whether we are prepared to declare it a success. (We clearly are not.) You made a very specific claim about its success as a state. (A state that, I remind you again, is only a few decades old.) You said that India is collapsing into rigid caste and sectarian violence. And almost every word of that is nonsense. India is not collapsing. It has been experiencing decades of improvement in social cohesion, economic development, cultural progress, and so forth. You talk about “rigid castes” whereas caste has been weakening everywhere (to a large extent even in the socialist period, but at a much more rapid clip in the capitalist). Sectarian violence has been an enormous problem in India for centuries, and the country was born in an orgy of it. These days, Amnesty International counts around 100 deaths a year in the entire country from it (punctuated by riots of an extra order of magnitude around every ten years); and India, with the second-highest Muslim population in the world, is one of the few countries not to produce terrorists from that community. Are these good numbers? Of course not. But they’re certainly ones that the days before this oh-so-ridiculous pluralist nationalism was attempted would have envied.

            Again, I emphasize, India has seen steady improvement in its condition over the course of its existence as a nation, which has been the topic at hand. (And the “collapsing into rigid caste…” business is just straight-up nonsense.) I think what has happened is that, instead of simply pointing out that India should hardly be counted as a great success story as of now, you seriously overreached and chose some hyperbolic language that does not at all fit the example.

          • The caste system was defeated by… immigration! The more foreign influences appeared in India, the more reprehensible the caste system was considered to be. And you know what helped speed along that process? Cultural diversity! When people converted to Islam, they no longer had to contend with the caste system.

          • Sean II

            If the caste system was defeated, why are the same families still in charge? Why are the Dalits still bottom of the pile? Why has no one told the villages?

          • Maybe it’s genetics. Maybe the untouchables really are genetically inferior to everyone else.

            Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

            More seriously: Defeating something like the caste system doesn’t mean everything becomes 100% equality of result, it just means that the traditions of the past are no longer the pertinent binding constraints. No one would argue that there aren’t other binding social constraints in India. But the days of the caste system are over.

    • King Goat

      This is why the United States ceased to be a nation when it effectively had open borders.

      Oh wait, I’ll come in again….

      • Sean II

        The United States never had “effectively open borders”.

        What we had was “immigration effectively closed to anyone except Europeans”.

        And we only had that for a little while.

        • King Goat

          1. ‘Europeans’ were and are a pretty diverse bunch (which is why there were counterparts to yourself throughout that period complaining about how the ___ race [insert German, Italian, Jewish, etc., etc., could never be assimilated here]). I think it’s fair to say that the difference culturally between a Mexican and US citizen now is smaller than that of a Southern Italian and US citizen circa 1870.

          2. And, a little while? Even if you exclude the colonial period the first federal immigration law was, what, the Chinese Exclusion Act? That was 100 years later in a barely over 200 year history.

          • Sean II

            1) “‘Europeans’ were and are a pretty diverse bunch…”

            No, they’re not. Nearly everyone who came over up to 1925 belonged to one of just two haplogroups.

            By 1960 the vast majority of Americans still came from just one of those two groups.

            In global terms, that ain’t diverse.

            2) Dont be silly. For a long time we didn’t have much legislation because we didn’t need it.

            Most of the world’s huddled masses lacked access to boats. They couldn’t get here, so no law was required to stop them.

          • King Goat

            1. Well, I guess I was talking culturally and you’re talking genetically, we obviously differ on what we think is important in terms of ‘ethnicity.’

            And is the claim one of two haplogroups even true? Given the map below I count half a dozen for areas that all supplied a lot of migrants.

            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/World_Map_of_Y-DNA_Haplogroups1.png

            2. Lots of huddled masses got here though. The percentage of foreign born in the US was around 15% in 1870, higher than it is today.

          • Sean II

            “Given the map below I count half a dozen for areas that all supplied a lot of migrants”

            List them. Pretty sure it’ll turn out you’re using “a lot” to mean “some or any”.

          • King Goat

            OK, look at Europe on the map. Using their terms, W. Europe, E. Europe, Germanic, Finnic, Southern Italy, S. Slavic…

          • Sean II

            Like I said, two haplogroups.

          • King Goat

            Is that not a map of distinct haplogroups by area? Are there not the six distinct haplogroups I mentioned identified on the continent of Europe? Or are you claiming we didn’t get a lot of immigration from all six?

    • Farstrider

      I agree that open borders largely does away with nations – what is a nation but a geographic area controlled by a group that can exclude others?

      I do not think the ethnic part is strictly necessary, but the common language and culture is an obvious necessity.

      • Sean II

        Maybe not strictly necessary, but the weight of cases is overwhelming.

        Even my most determined opponents have struggled, out of all the nationa known to history, to name even 10 that are NOT frank ethno-states.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Is so funny to read you Sean II…here you are, defending ethno states in a libertarian page, and pretending the composition of those states should be determined by the supposed genetic groups their inhabitants belong. May I ask you, what is the difference (at the root of your ideology) between you and, say, any other ordinary racist (like Richard Spencer, who has also tried to push that particular agenda in libertarian circles)?

          • Sean II

            What do I think of Spencer?

            Well I think Rothbard overstated the case when he called Social Statics the greatest piece of libertarian theory ever written, but perhaps he was just lashing back at the even more overstated – and much more widely spread – simplification which mislabeled Spencer’s views on competition as a let-them-starve form of Social Darwinism.

            Obviously, no one would be better pleased than I to see a renewed fusion between libertarian thought and evolutionary science. In that science I think Spencer is an important figure. He sets an example we today would do well to follow.

          • Rob Gressis

            Sean II, testing our reading skills.

          • Sean II

            Just wait

    • SK0000

      Not really.
      Here’s what happens when we remove the word sovereignty, and replace it with your tacit normative premises; “nations are valuable + a nation ought to decide what happens to whomever occupies its territory.” (Nationalist Thesis) B blocks open borders arguments with Nationalist Thesis, A asks why Nationalist Thesis doesn’t apply to other things like freedom of speech or reproductive rights, we accept either the argument is really about rights/something like that or that B is a crazy democrat.

      Also, the claims about nations are pretty cute. Travel (to a city, even.) Read some books

  • j r

    It’s telling that the comments so far are people asserting that the idea of national sovereignty or the very concept of a nation has to entail a particular conception of borders, citizenship, national identity, etc. without bothering to do the work to show why.

    At the end of the day, nationalism is just another form of mysticism.

    • CJColucci

      It seems to me that the concept of national sovereignty, or perhaps the concept of a territorial state, entails some conception of borders, citizenship, or national identity, but not any particular conception. I don’t think it would be particularly difficult to show that “nobody gets in” or “anyone who shows up gets in” are both bad ideas, but they are bad ideas for mostly practical reasons, which can be argued over, not because of the very idea of a territorial sovereign state.

    • Brooklyn Boricua

      At the end of the day, nationalism is just another form of mysticism.

      Well, it certainly is for the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths. No wonder they’ve been experiencing a decline in tourism these days!

    • Ben Kennedy

      If I were to declare myself Sovereign of France, I doubt people would take me very seriously. This is because I have no actual ability to enforce my laws in that area, or have any influence at all of what is going on. So clearly there are *some* things that have to be baked into the concept of “sovereign”, with things like “ability to enforce laws” high on the list, as well as potentially “ability to preserve territorial integrity”

  • Brooklyn Boricua

    It’s pretty clear what any liberal with half a brain would have to mean by “national sovereignty” when he appeals to it. Namely, that the modern sovereign territorial state is associated with a “nation,” and legitimately exercises control over both alien persons’ admission to that nation, and their admission as guests to the territory associated with it.

    It may be that “sovereignty” is indeed not the best word, that it can be confused with the premise laid out by you and summarized eloquently above by the (presumably nonliberal) commenter Ben Kennedy: that the state has “the right to say what is and is not a crime.” But since it’s indeed obvious that no liberal would in a million years assert such a thing, and since the disambiguation move is obvious, why devote even a casual thoughtpost to this toy bit of “question-begging” in prelude to the “actual dispute”?

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Generally, libertarian intellectuals are glad to affirm the tremendous moral value of the rule of law, as construed by Hayek. They should therefore have no hesitation in endorsing the view that a side constraint on any immigration policy must be that it not degrade the rule of law in the home country. But to so do would turn a clear-cut, idealistic, virtuous-sounding stance into a messy empirical debate that would have to analyze the effect of recent large-scale immigration in Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, etc. So, they don’t, and instead we get silly exercises of the sort just offered by Prof. Brennan.

    • SK0000

      …Do you mean stability rather than rule of law?
      (Hayek’s conception of rule of law may have open borders baked into it, or at the very least minimal restrictions on entry and exit)

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        I meant what was written. Very briefly, Hayek’s idea was that the law should be neutral between competing constituencies and rival conceptions of the good. A useful road-map by which people can plan and manage their affairs. Whether in any particular case open borders would advance or retard this would necessitate an empirical inquiry and not a priori reasoning; that is my point.

        • SK0000

          Obviously, we should think about the implications of policies if we seek to conserve a particular social order. No one denies that.

          ‘They should therefore have no hesitation in endorsing the view that a side constraint on any immigration policy must be that it not degrade the rule of law in the home country. ‘

          I’ll try again. If a -libertarian- were to endorse Hayek’s conception of rule of law in its entirety (rather than mere stability re: what he calls rules of just conduct, which seems to be what you’re getting at), then they would need a principled solution to the problem of explaining why we may discriminate between citizens’ activities that undermine rules of just conduct, such as speech or reproduction, say, and outsiders’ potential activities. My view is there probably is no principled solution, certainly not a natural rights-based one.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You acknowledge that “we should think about the implications of policies if we seek to conserve a particular social order.” So, if policymakers in a relatively liberal social order are rightly convinced that open borders will turn their polity much into a much less liberal one, they should do so anyway? Would you care to elaborate on that.

          • SK0000

            We should be careful to separate social and political orders. We may have comparatively tolerant (I’m not sure about applying the term “liberal” to social orders) social orders alongside comparatively illiberal political ones, and vice versa. We don’t have open borders anywhere right now, so the empirics are hard to make out. The evidence is most newcomers adopt dominant political values. I think your question question-begs. Suppose we have open borders, there are many newcomers, and these newcomers have illiberal political values. It does not follow the polity will be or become less liberal, all-things-considered. What if closing borders makes a polity less liberal? Put another way, what if restricting citizens’ associative freedoms and property rights makes a polity less liberal? More needs to be said at the level of moral theory.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I don’t believe I’ve question-begged at all. The primary point of my original comment, and then to you, is that there is no escape from empirical inquiry in deciding the questions of immigration. I said nothing to the effect that from open borders “it follow[s] that the polity will be or become less liberal all-things-considered.” However, it seems obvious that there is no reason to foreclose a priori the possibility that in a given case open borders could make a polity both more socially and politically illiberal. Therefore, you still haven’t answered my question. What if decision-makers have good cause to believe this will happen?

            As to your question. The relationship between citizen and state is different than between that same state and would-be immigrants. This is easily seem if you consider that the US government has a stringent duty to defend the territory of the US from foreign aggression, and to punish the aggressor should an attack occur. However, it has no comparable obligation with respect to the territory of (say) Vietnam. Why do you think this is so? Aren’t the Vietnamese also good people, worthy of our defense?

          • SK0000

            You did question-beg. It may be a polity is more liberal the more open its borders, the less liberal the more closed its borders, no matter the demography. If so, ‘if policymakers in a relatively liberal social order are rightly convinced that open borders will turn their polity much into a much less liberal one, they should do so anyway?’ makes no sense. Here is an analogy. Imagine a polity with no restrictions on freedom of expression. Over time, members of the political community become more socialist. Suppose the polity restricts speech, and the number of liberals increases as a result. It would not follow polity at T2 is more liberal than the polity at T1. We need to work that out at the level of moral theory, alongside the nonnormative facts. There may indeed be reasons to foreclose a priori the possibility that in a given case open borders could make a polity more politically illiberal.

            I’m talking moral theory. It is a legal fact that states have more stringent duties re: their citizens. It is not a moral fact. Being a good natural rights libertarian, I believe Vietnamese people are equally worthy of defense, ceteris paribus. There may be additional questions about who is best positioned to defend them, but we can imagine cases where the duty falls on the US state.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            No, you are helping yourself to the assumption that open borders are a necessary component of a liberal or libertarian polity, and that is the very issue at hand. Thus, you can’t exclude the possibility that in the real world open borders might degrade natural rights in the home country. What then?

            I understand full well the difference between legal and moral relationships. Citizen stand in a different moral relationship to their state than do non-citizens. Their state has denied those under its jurisdiction, and only those persons, the right to govern themselves. This coercively maintained monopoly on force creates a fiduciary obligation on the part of each state to–on a libertarian account–protect the natural rights of those under its jurisdiction. This rules out restrictions on speech, association, etc. unless there are ghastly utilitarian consequences from not so acting. We have no obligation to protect such rights for those living outside of our borders.

            Your answer with respect to Vietnam exposes the absurdity of your argument. The Vietnamese are worthy of defense by their state. No libertarian thinks we are duty-bound to be the world’s policeman. Now, I have argued this matter out in detail both on this site and in my most recent book. I hope you will forgive me for not wanting to rehearse it yet again. A fairly extensive version of the argument is provided on my blog: https://naturalrightslibertarian.com/?s=open+borders+again. If you want to continue after reading it, I will oblige.

          • SK0000

            Um, no. Reread my posts. I happen to believe polities are not liberal/libertarian unless they have open borders. I’ve not argued that, though. I’ve merely stated it -may- be a polity is more liberal/libertarian the more open its borders, the less liberal/libertarian the more closed its borders, to highlight your question-begging.

            I’ve not said you don’t understand the difference between legal and moral relationships re: citizens and states. I was summarising my view. Strictly speaking, citizens of A and those who fall under the jurisdiction of A are non-identical sets, and the fiduciary relationship you describe obtains only between A and members of the second set. It does not follow from this fiduciary relationship alone that “we” (I assume you mean the state, those under its jurisdiction, or both) have no obligations towards “others.” You need to say more. My argument is not absurd. Crudely, it combines a version of the moral parity thesis with the view that we may sometimes have a duty to prevent rights violations. We can imagine circumstances where the US government is the only entity capable of upholding the rights of people in Vietnam, in which case there might be a duty. You say no libertarian defends humanitarian intervention. That’s false. Lomasky and Teson devise a fairly neat libertarian argument in ‘Justice at a Distance.’

            Why assume I’ve not read your blog?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Let me try to overcome your false claim of question-begging with a thought experiment. Two country world, both having roughly equal populations. Nation A is a libertarian paradise, except it has immigration quotas, and employs an extreme vetting process. Country B is a lawless jungle, which is they way most of its citizens like it. 90% have the morals of a Mafia hit-man, and the 10% who are decent live in constant fear. It is, I claim, absurd to say that it begs the question to ask you whether A’s leaders should consider the empirical consequences of open borders before enacting them. You may deny that the real world has any such clear-cut case, but the principle is exactly the same, and leaders can only exclude the possibility that unlimited immigration will degrade libertarian rights by considering the consequences–my original point.

            Second, the distinction between citizens and legal residents is irrelevant for all purposes relevant to my argument. Apart from voting/holding office, the state has essentially the same moral duties to both sets.

            Actually, it is you who need to say more. I have specified the source of the obligations of the state to its citizens. You are silent on the ethical foundation of any purported duty of the US government to members of foreign polities. I sincerely doubt that that Teson/Lomasky claim that the US is obligated to undertake humanitarian interventions on behalf of other populations if such interventions run counter to the interests of the US. And that is what you would have to show to invalidate the distinction I have proposed between the rights of citizens and non-citizens.

            By the same token, humanitarian is only one type of military intervention. What if China attacks Vietnam with the goal of military conquest? If there is a parity of moral interests from the perspective of the US, our government would be required to defend Vietnam with the same vigor it would defend US territory. That is crazy. Now, I think I’ve said enough. You are welcome to the last word.

          • Sean II

            I should have picked up on this sooner, but I spent a large amount of time yesterday arguing with Goat and two guys writing under brand new disqus accounts with fewer than 75 posts in their combined comment histories.

            This was very stupid of me.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            All is forgiven.

          • SK0000

            1. Let’s try again. I am not saying you beg the question because you ask me to consider the empirical consequences of X. You beg the question here: ‘if policymakers in a relatively liberal social order are rightly convinced that open borders will turn their polity much into a much less liberal one, they should do so anyway?’ Notice your question –assumes- a polity could close its borders without becoming less liberal than it would be if it were to keep its borders open. Putting it another way, your question smuggles a conception of liberalism/libertarianism, where the argument is partly about liberal/libertarian conceptions. 2. ‘Apart from voting/holding office, the state has essentially the same moral duties to both sets’ That depends on the nonnormative facts on the ground e.g. some polities give voting rights to non-citizens, in some polities, some citizens may not run for office, etc. It’s not clear the state has the same moral duties to both sets, even on your view. A is a citizen of B who resides in C. Both B and C are legitimate libertarian states. Then, at T2, C breaks down because, say, some nationalists take power. Someone steals A’s property. Does your view allow for B to send in the police to retrieve A’s property? Should B compensate A? 3. By your own admission, here, in your blogs, and in your book even, the US does have duties to members of foreign polities. It has duties to legal residents. I take it you mean people who are neither citizens nor legal residents, in which case, I’ve said that if we believe there are duties to prevent rights violations, and a state is the only agent capable of preventing that violation, there may sometimes be a duty to outsiders. Crudely, that duty responds to the intrinsic properties of persons. Suppose some people are running towards a border, and they are under attack. Suppose the border is guarded by soldiers of A, who may prevent the attack. Do you really believe it’s plausible soldiers of A are under no duty whatsoever to act to protect the people who are fleeing the attack, even if it somehow harms the “interests” of A (assuming things besides individuals have interests)? I can do some table-banging too: “that would be crazy!”

    • King Goat

      I’d say the negative effect on the rule of law in Europe is more in danger today from nationalist anti-immigrant movements than it is immigrants (witness Poland and Hungary).

      • SK0000

        Don’t forget Czechia, Slovakia, and, soon, Romania

  • CJColucci

    In a sane world, immigration would be a technical, wonky issue. We obviously can’t take everybody, and we don’t want to take nobody. As a practical matter, we could probably eliminate the US-Canadian border and nobody would much care about the relatively small number of culturally-similar, comparably well-off folks wandering from one country to the other. Maybe they could go out drinking with the Norwegians. But we also want our hewers of wood and drawers of water. We can’t take them all, so there has to be some number, and some administrable and not too hard-assed basis for selecting who and how many, all of which should be the subject of dull negotiation. But that is not the way it goes. I wonder why that is?

    • Sean II

      “We obviously can’t take everybody…”

      That is not at all obvious to the open borders crowd. They insist we can take everybody.

      Or to say the truth more precisely, they insist we must refuse nobody.

      • CJColucci

        Just how crowded is the “open borders crowd”? As best I can tell, they are a splinter off a fringe with next to no practical political impact, so I don’t bother addressing them. Of course, I could be wrong and am willing to learn otherwise, but I see no reason to engage with them at the moment.

        • Sean II

          The number of people who say “Hi, I’m for open borders” isn’t large, but so what.

          The number of people who are against any meaningful border control is large and growing.

          Popular slogans like “no person is illegal” simply contain the idea.

          If anyone who gets here, can stay here…that’s an open border.

          • CJColucci

            “Meaningful” does all the heavy lifting here. For some values of “meaningful,” you can make nearly anyone an open borders advocate. I can remember far enough back when Barack Obama was called the Deporter in Chief.

          • Sean II

            That’s silly. It belongs to that internet school of logic which says any statement containing a condition as to degree is a case of No True Scotsman.

            Don’t be like that. Lots of important things in life are matters of degree.

            The meaning of “meaningful” in my comment is not hard to figure out.

            Since 1970 the percentage of foreign born people in the US tripled.

            That means the border control we have isn’t very meaningful. More like border control theater.

          • CJColucci

            Well, at least you’ve drawn your own line and made it reasonably clear. It actually wasn’t hard to figure out what you meant; I simply wanted to get you to say it.

          • Sean II

            Never hesitate to ask.

          • CJColucci

            My way is much more fun.

  • Roderick T. long

    Note, further, that even if one GRANTS that “National sovereignty includes a right to determine who may pass borders,” that’s STILL consistent with open borders being the right policy. Having a right to do X doesn’t imply that doing X is desirable. I have a right to get a swastika tattooed on my forehead; doesn’t mean I should.