Human Rights, recent, Right of Reply

Is Liberal Immigration Anti-Democratic?—A Reply to Gadi Taub

In a recent Quillette essay, Gadi Taub argues that restricting voters’ power undermines the “ability of citizens to protect their hard-earned liberal rights.” He also says this is “bound to hurt these very rights, since their only real guarantee is the fact that we can dismiss our governments and appoint their replacement.” We may believe voting is an unreliable guarantor of liberal rights because more voters are turning to nationalism or socialism. We may also believe liberal rights and democracy, properly understood, imply wide restrictions on voting.

The second reservation gives us a sense what’s wrong with Taub’s central argument. He says the debate over immigration is a “proxy for a far larger struggle over the future of democracy itself.” That’s true, as far as it goes. But this struggle is more complicated than he admits.  

Taub claims there are two sides to the debate over immigration: one says the state may restrict immigration, and the other says the state may not. This is a caricature. Pretty much everyone believes states may exclude known security or public health threats. Ebola patients, for instance, or terrorists. And few believe states must admit fugitive wrongdoers. The real debate is between those who believe the state may exclude other kinds of immigrant, and those who believe it may not. Call the first side restrictionist and the second anti-restrictionist. Restrictionism isn’t monolithic. Some say we must include genuine asylum-seekers, for example (Taub does not tell us if he questions the idea of a right to asylum.)

Taub’s narrative also pitches pro-immigration “liberals” and “progressives” against everyone else. It’s not clear what he means by “liberal” and “progressive;” he also equivocates between “moderate liberalism” and “extreme liberalism.” In most places and languages, a liberal is someone who believes in small government: what Americans call a “libertarian.” In North America, “liberals” are liberal egalitarians. The distinction between liberal egalitarianism and American “progressivism” is hazy, too. Roughly, liberal egalitarians lean social democrat and American progressives lean democratic socialist. Both care about liberty and economic equality; liberal egalitarians care more about liberty than progressives do. Outside North America, “progressive” and its cognates are rare. And when they are used, they’re elusive slurs rather than political identities. In some Australian and European nationalist commentary, everything from anarcho-capitalism to revolutionary socialism is “progressive.”

Most liberals are anti-restrictionists (many liberal philosophers and activists believe anti-restrictionism is essential to liberalism.) But many liberal egalitarians and American progressives favor extensive immigration restrictions. Like the philosopher David Miller, they may believe immigration undermines the welfare state. Like Bernie Sanders, they may worry immigration threatens the living standards of “ordinary” citizens. These egalitarian arguments are more palatable than racist or xenophobic ones. But without meaning to put too fine a point on it, the key differences between these arguments stem from their different moral reasons for restrictionism rather than any disagreement over restrictionism itself. 

Taub also attributes disagreements over immigration to a non-democratic and “ultimately anti-democratic” shift in “liberal” ideology. But liberal egalitarianism and liberalism have always defended constraints on democratic procedures. The American liberal tradition is intimately connected to the American constitutional system. Liberal egalitarians like Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Anna Stilz defend stringent constraints on democratic procedures, including redistributive riders. The American Democratic Party does too. Liberal writers like Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Isabel Paterson, and Ludwig von Mises also defend stringent constraints on democratic procedures. The same goes for their successors, whether these be contemporary liberal writers like Jason Brennan, Bryan Caplan, Chandran Kukathas, and Ilya Somin, or liberal political parties and institutions. Even John Stuart Mill endorsed democratic systems that give extra votes to college graduates and guarantee basic liberal rights. There’s been no great ideological shift on any normal reading of “liberalism.” What’s changed is debates over democracy and immigration policy are now far more pressing.  

Liberals and liberal egalitarians aren’t unusual either, or at least not all that unusual. Most people believe in stringent constraints on democratic procedures: they believe some things are wrong, no matter how many citizens say otherwise. Maybe Taub thinks such views are “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic.” In what ways, exactly, are liberal egalitarianism and liberalism today “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic?” We’d expect Taub to answer this question.

Suppose there are two general accounts of democracy: procedural and substantive. The procedural account defines democracy in terms of democratic procedures. A procedure may be democratic if all its users are citizens or elected representatives, say. Maybe a system is only democratic if it leaves everything, or most things, to democratic procedures. Maybe democracy is scalar, depending on the proportion of democratic procedures in a system. 

This procedural account gives us conceptual space to call anti-restrictionism, liberalism, and liberal egalitarianism “non-” or “anti-democratic.” It also gives us space to call Taub’s view “non-” or “anti-democratic.” A right to “take part in shaping a collective destiny,” say, would constrain democratic procedures. It’d imply citizens may not vote to disenfranchise any of their fellow citizens. 

The substantive account says basic rights, which restrict the scope of democratic procedures, are as much a part of democracy as the procedures themselves.  Anti-restrictionism may be “non-” or “anti-democratic” if it’s inconsistent with basic rights. For example, anti-restrictionism would be “non-” or “anti-democratic” if our basic rights implied we may prevent citizens from inviting foreigners into their homes. It’s not clear our basic rights rule out anti-restrictionism, though, and Taub doesn’t give us any reasons for believing they do. And although they may disagree about accounts of democracy, most anti-restrictionists believe basic rights imply anti-restrictionism: our rights to associate with whomever we contract with, and to move across borders, are among our basic rights. 

Assuming we favor using democratic procedures sometimes, here the meat of the dispute is what rights states should protect and the stringency of these rights relative to such procedures. That’s a long way from a Manichean struggle between “anti-democratic” “liberalism” and everything else. 

This is more than hair-splitting and wordplay: the moral force of Taub’s argument depends on his view being more “democratic” than the alternatives. And the same conceptual problems reduce the moral force of Taub’s argument in another way. It’s not yet clear “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic” politics are even bad things. Normal liberal constraints on votes to kill or enslave people, say, outweigh anyone’s right to participate in “shaping” a “collective destiny,” on any plausible moral theory.  

Taub could grant all this and still claim anti-restrictionist views don’t assign enough moral weight to democratic procedures. Many anti-restrictionists happily admit they simply care more about basic rights than they do about democratic procedures, and that they don’t include the right to vote in the set of basic rights. The problem is that Taub also seeks to reconcile basic “liberal” rights with restrictionism. Many economists, philosophers, and political scientists deny the two could ever be reconciled. I sketch some of their arguments below.   

One approach is to identify the harms to prospective immigrants. The libertarian philosopher Michael Huemer writes of immigration restrictions, 

They prevent individuals from living where they wish to live…Few decisions are so important as the choice of what society to live in… [and immigration restrictions] are extremely harmful to most of the individuals who are thus restricted. Few Americans would have any doubt that, if someone were to force them to live in the Third World for the rest of their lives, whoever did this would thereby visit a great harm upon them. The harm to potential immigrants from the Third World who are denied entry to the United States, or to illegal immigrants who are forcibly expelled, is of the same kind and approximate magnitude.

This is compelling stuff, and many liberals believe it’s sufficient. Another approach is to ask why citizens and foreigners should be treated any differently in the first place. 

Besides some democratic rights, it’s not clear what rights Taub counts as liberal rights. As a rule, liberals and liberal egalitarians believe each citizen is entitled to associate with other citizens (other than associating by way of shared citizenship, if that is a form of association.) Almost all believe each citizen is entitled to procreate; many believe this right covers adopting foreign children. And almost all believe these two rights are in some way derivate of our basic liberal rights, or themselves basic liberal rights. I assume Taub endorses a right to associate and a right to procreate, and believes these are liberal rights. Pretty much everyone, liberal or not, affirms these two rights, and pretty much everyone believes these rights trump democratic ones. It’s not clear Taub believes the rights to associate and procreate trump democratic rights. But if he does, then he’ll struggle to reject anti-restrictionism.

If we think there’s value in forming certain relationships with other citizens, then why shouldn’t there be equal value in associating with foreigners in the same ways? 

Conceptions of citizenship vary across political communities. Some require that someone be born in a given territory and reside there. Some require only that someone’s parent is a citizen. Depending on the conception, claims about the moral significance of citizenship may be more or less absurd. One may acquire Italian citizenship without ever residing in Italy, as long as one has an Italian ancestor. It’s far from clear that the many people in Australia, the United States, and elsewhere who’ve acquired Italian citizenship in this way have morally significant relationships with one another due to their shared citizenship.

The anti-restrictionist argument needn’t rest on jus sanguinus either. The reality is that many relationships we normally consider morally significant don’t track citizenship, on any conception of citizenship. Ties of friendship and family transcend citizenship. Foreigners may pay taxes, in significant amounts. Many non-citizens, including investors, have significant material stakes in public property; some foreigners will have a greater material stake than some citizens. Foreigners may even play a greater role in the cultural or political life of a political community than some citizens do, through trade, cultural achievements, political donations, INGOs, or supranational bodies like the EU. Economic, social, cultural, political, and even genetic ties, each of these kinds of relationship are poor sources of principled distinctions between citizens and foreigners. It won’t do to thump the table and stipulate citizenship just is special. The fact “somewheres” are less likely to have morally significant relationships with foreigners than “anywheres” are, doesn’t change things either. 

Some restrictionists argue that democratic restrictions on immigration are an expression of associative rights. The state may not force you to be friends with someone, they say, or hire them. In the same way, it may not force you to associate with an immigrant. One problem with this argument is that it’s hard to see how anyone could be forced to associate with immigrants in significant ways, even given a welfare state, unless we’ve already begged the question and decided merely inhabiting the same territory establishes association. Taub talks about foreigners moving into neighborhoods, depressing wages, and so on. But unless one believes say, gentrification or losing out to another citizen in a job hunt infringe associative rights, there’s no road from such rights to immigration restrictions on such everyday grounds. 

Another problem is political communities aren’t voluntary associations. We don’t choose to join them unless we’re immigrants; no one born into citizenship ever signed a social contract. And for all liberalisms, autonomy helps explain the value of associative rights. Taub and others may want to argue voting expresses individual autonomy in (liberal) democratic political communities. But voting isn’t a normal autonomy-promoting activity, if indeed it is such an activity. Even if it were true that voting made a qualitative difference to my autonomy, it would concern more than my autonomy: voting is telling people with guns to set the terms each of us lives by, whether we like the result or not. Some believe our co-citizens have consented to our votes if and because they’ve remained in our political community, or consumed public goods; by the same token, maybe civilians are legitimate wartime targets unless they’ve taken steps to overthrow their governments. From a liberal perspective or liberal egalitarian perspective, though, it’s hard to see why tacit consent should be any better than hypothetical water. And while the right to leave is as important as the ability on many liberal accounts, we may worry about taking habitation too seriously in a world of stringent immigration restrictions. 

Taub and other restrictionists may want to say the fact that immigration is prospective weakens some of these claims about the moral differences between citizens and foreigners. Preventing some citizens from associating with other citizens in advance would be similarly prospective, of course. Even if it weren’t, it’s hard to identify morally relevant differences between citizens introducing newcomers into a society via procreation, and citizens introducing newcomers via invitation. The fact that a newborn is a citizen makes no difference to the fact that they may represent an unapproved economic or cultural burden. Many citizens-by-birth grow up to be economically inactive; some evidence from Europe and North America suggests natives are less likely to be economically active than immigrants. There are deep cultural differences within all political communities; intergenerational ones are among the deepest, with the young often refusing to assimilate into the culture of the old. The evidence suggests many immigrants regress to the cultural mean over time; some groups of immigrants integrate and assimilate quickly. Like the rest of us, citizens-by-birth are also unlikely to make significant cultural or political contributions to their home society. 

A liberal view, egalitarian or not, must explain why one set of citizens, prospective parents, get to have their newcomers, but another set, those who want to, say, marry, employ, or house immigrants, do not. And Taub provides no such explanation. Similar problems arise when the liberal restrictionist argues from inequality and disadvantage. Just as Sanders frets about the effects of migration on “ordinary” workers, Taub stresses that immigration harms the most disadvantaged in a society most of all. Even if it were true immigration harmed the most disadvantaged in a society most of all, we would need strong independent reasons for moving from this fact to playing favorites with the state. Egalitarian and samaritan reasons look promising, until we notice that disadvantaged citizens may be much better off than the prospective newcomers. In most actual cases, natives start from a much better baseline.  

None of these concerns rely on believing foreigners have the same (natural) rights as citizens. Immigration restrictions, like tariffs and other restrictions on trade, affect the activities of citizens above all; the basic effects on citizens are the same as they would be if they were domestic restrictions. Either way, you may not bring someone into your house, family, or business, say, without permission.

Liberal egalitarianism often invests national groups with some moral status that isn’t reducible to the moral status of each member. Taub seems to do this. And he hints that citizen participation is valuable because national self-determination matters. But even if citizenship tracked nationality and nations were gestalt “selves,” why would such “selves” matter more than their parts? Each person mastering their fate isn’t the same as some people mastering some other people’s fates. Some explain the significance of national “self”-determination in terms of individual identity: it matters because members identify with a project. But the mere fact that some people identify with a political community that masters its members wouldn’t solve the problem any more than the mere fact that a gang member identifies with their gang would show that its members may harm or exploit people.  

Some accept a fiduciary argument that says we may reconcile liberal rights with restrictionism because one of these rights is the right to strong liberal institutions. Taub hints at this kind of justification when he criticizes immigration to Europe and Israel. The idea is that allowing immigration, particularly immigration from authoritarian, conservative societies, threatens liberal institutions in the long-term. To their credit, the main proponents of the fiduciary argument, Danny Frederick and Mark D. Friedman, admit the evidence they have for believing immigration would weaken liberal institutions is limited. Since immigration restrictions are stringent, extensive restrictions on citizens, the evidence would have to be decisive. This isn’t the only problem with the fiduciary argument. What if institutions only count as strong liberal institutions if they have opened their borders? The reply may be that some features of liberal institutions matter more than others: whatever rights immigration restrictions violate are less important than any they supposedly protect. As immigration restrictions are so similar to restrictions on certain rights almost all liberals accept are basic, we’d have to look to citizenship to explain things here too. And the explanation can’t be circular.  

We should treat the idea that pro-immigration liberalism is “non-” or “anti-democratic” with caution. And Taub needs to explain how liberal rights could be combined with restrictionism. 

 

Sam Kiss is a writer based in Melbourne, Victoria. He has a DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford. He works on liberal political philosophy, among other things. He rarely tweets at @voice_sam.

Photo by Ggia/Wikimedia Commons, Greece, 2015.

Comments

  1. Open borders, ideologically speaking, is an anarchist position.

    If any Western society were to have true open borders, it would collapse within weeks and everybody knows it, including the extremists who push for open borders.

    Western ‘liberal’ democracies are not just empty landmasses, they are fully comprehensive welfare states and the average citizen is already a tremendous financial burden as it is.

    ‘Liberal rights’ is such an impractical, stupid idea, that you can be sure its author has insidious, destructive motives.

  2. Wow, you can always rely on academics for high falutin hooey. The writer just warps concepts left and right. Apparently, “in most places and languages, a liberal is someone who believes in small government” and a “libertarian” to boot. News to me. I thought conservatives believe in small government. I thought libertarians believe in the rights of the individual, rather than special groups (not that I really put all my faith into any ideology). But, hey, I’m just an idiot not some fancy academic who can pound you over the head with a long list of names. Also, the assumptions are flat out amazing. “Pretty much everyone, liberal or not” apparently endorses the right to procreate. I don’t. I don’t even endorse my own right to procreate since I feel I can’t truly provide for a child. Who reading this thinks it’s terrific for a poor mother to have 12 kids? Surely, it’s basic right not to be born doomed? Also, Michael Huemer’s quoted argument that people have a right not to be forced to live in a Third World country is double-edged. No one, except zealots, argues for zero immigration. But, yeah, every country has limited resources. If you turn every country into a Third World country with totally porous borders, then where can anyone live a decent life? Seems to me the author just saddled his moral high horse and went full gallop for the nearest cliff.

  3. Taub claims there are two sides to the debate over immigration: one says the state may restrict immigration, and the other says the state may not. This is a caricature. Pretty much everyone believes states may exclude known security or public health threats. Ebola patients, for instance, or terrorists. And few believe states must admit fugitive wrongdoers. The real debate is between those who believe the state may exclude other kinds of immigrant, and those who believe it may not. Call the first side restrictionist and the second anti-restrictionist.

    This is pedantic at best, and eye-rolling inanity at worst. People who are “known security or public health threats” have their movement controlled (being arrested or quarantined) whether they cross a border or not. So if someone only opposes border crossing by people whose right to free movement is already negated for safety reasons then that position can be adequately portrayed as people who think the State may not restrict immigration.

    To call Gadi Taub’s description a “caricature” seems to me to be a disguised ad hominem, to paint him as someone who is not in good faith and who caricatures opponents rather than describing them fairly.

    This ad hominem is then followed by another ad hominem:

    Restrictionism isn’t monolithic. Some say we must include genuine asylum-seekers, for example (Taub does not tell us if he questions the idea of a right to asylum.)

    What is the goal of that parenthesis if not to imply Taub thinks people who are being persecuted should not have the right to flee their persecutor?

    BTW, Sam Kiss does not tell us if he opposes slavery in his text. Just saying. Draw the conclusions you must from it. /s

    Taub also attributes disagreements over immigration to a non-democratic and “ultimately anti-democratic” shift in “liberal” ideology. But liberal egalitarianism and liberalism have always defended constraints on democratic procedures.

    That is a complete and utter lack of nuance. It’s like if someone opposed a government’s plan to restrict people to their house unless they have a permit to go out, and someone else said “we detained criminals before and you didn’t speak up, why do you care now?”. Putting some constraints on rights is not the same as negating that right entirely. It’s amazing I have to say it in response to someone who claims a PhD in Politics.

    To address the actual issue, liberals have always supported some constraints on democratic processes to avoid excesses and abuse, but traditionally, they still saw democracy as a good thing that had to be preserved. What Taub describes is a new form of “liberalism” that now sees democracy as an inherent problem, any democratic exercise being the “tyranny of the majority” and democracy as a vector of corruption rather than a barrier against it. For example, people who say they trust Supreme Courts more than politicians because they’re not elected and don’t have to be accountable to the people, saying that implies that the democratic process is bad in and of itself. You should seriously ask people who make that claim that if having to stand for elections corrupt people and make them untrustworthy, then why not abolish elections altogether and name legislators for life through an internal nominating process? I mean, sure we’d essentially go back to an aristocratic autocracy like in Feudal societies, but at least it would be a liberal autocratic society, right?

    What Taub described was a form of “liberalism” which had such an expansive approach to “rights” that the range of democratic choices left for the people to make is reduced almost to nothing. People who declare everything to be “rights” so as to impose only one path forward for society, and who support institutions like supreme courts overruling governments nearly at will on the basis of such expansive rights.

    Few Americans would have any doubt that, if someone were to force them to live in the Third World for the rest of their lives, whoever did this would thereby visit a great harm upon them. The harm to potential immigrants from the Third World who are denied entry to the United States, or to illegal immigrants who are forcibly expelled, is of the same kind and approximate magnitude.

    Far from compelling, this argument makes no sense. That’s like saying, “if I won the lottery, my life would be much better, not winning the lottery means my life is worse off than it could be, so you should give me the lottery winnings or you are causing me harm”. No it doesn’t cause harm, because it only maintains the status quo.

    Besides some democratic rights, it’s not clear what rights Taub counts as liberal rights. As a rule, liberals and liberal egalitarians believe each citizen is entitled to associate with other citizens (other than associating by way of shared citizenship, if that is a form of association.) Almost all believe each citizen is entitled to procreate; many believe this right covers adopting foreign children. And almost all believe these two rights are in some way derivate of our basic liberal rights, or themselves basic liberal rights. I assume Taub endorses a right to associate and a right to procreate, and believes these are liberal rights. Pretty much everyone, liberal or not, affirms these two rights, and pretty much everyone believes these rights trump democratic ones. It’s not clear Taub believes the rights to associate and procreate trump democratic rights. But if he does, then he’ll struggle to reject anti-restrictionism.

    Just like liberal rights can constrain democratic rights, democratic rights can constrain liberal rights. For example, freedom of association is constrained in much of the Western world in the name of the public good. Here are a few examples of limits on freedom to association:

    -Anti-trust laws that forbid businesses to associate if they would have too big a share of an industry

    -Anti-insider trading laws that forbid people with inside information to associate with traders to trade stock using that private information to anticipate stock fluctuations

    -Bribery laws that forbid people from associating with other people if it might endanger the integrity of their function

    -Public accommodation/civil rights laws that force business owners and landlords to associate with people they may not want to

    Sam Kiss here displays an absolutist manichean mindset, it’s either one or the other, either liberal rights trump democratic rights ALWAYS or democratic rights trump liberal rights ALWAYS. His argument is nonsensical as a result.

    Some restrictionists argue that democratic restrictions on immigration are an expression of associative rights. The state may not force you to be friends with someone, they say, or hire them. In the same way, it may not force you to associate with an immigrant. One problem with this argument is that it’s hard to see how anyone could be forced to associate with immigrants in significant ways, even given a welfare state, unless we’ve already begged the question and decided merely inhabiting the same territory establishes association.

    That’s not begging the question at all. Citizenship is indeed a form of association, people are subject to the same laws, institutions and social programs, they participate (in democratic societies) in public deliberation about laws and policies that affect each other. How can one pretend that’s not a form of association? At the very least, it’s absolutely incontestable that citizenship is a form of association between a citizen and the State, and States are usually understood as “moral persons” and therefore have rights and responsibility like human beings. So the citizens of a State can implement rules dictating with whom the State will establish a citizenship association just like any organization can, with members being able to decide who can become a member or not.

    We should treat the idea that pro-immigration liberalism is “non-” or “anti-democratic” with caution. And Taub needs to explain how liberal rights could be combined with restrictionism.

    Treat an idea “with caution”… what does that even mean? And I don’t think Taub needs to do that since Sam Kiss was utterly unable to make an intelligible argument that liberals rights are at odds with immigration controls.

    All in all, that this text was written by a PhD in Politics from what is supposed to be a prestigious university makes me despair even more for the state of academic institutions in the world.

  4. I salute you for picking at the many, many holes in Kiss’s piece. It was good to read a sensible critique with clear points after grinding through such an inane article. Hopefully, in future, academics won’t take the piss and try baffle Quillette readers with their blarney.

    1. People in the Third World live on “Tragic Dirt”.

    2. People in the First World live on “Magic Dirt”.

    3. If people in the Third World move from Tragic Dirt to Magic Dirt, then their lives will improve.

    4. For some reason as yet unknown, Magic Dirt countries have lots of Tragic Dirt areas within them. Including areas with large concentrations of recent immigrants from Tragic Dirt, or even with people that have been in the country a long time. Sometimes specific physical places that used to be Tragic Dirt become Magic Dirt. Some go from Magic Dirt to Tragic Dirt. Sometimes Magic Dirt and Tragic Dirt can literally be a block apart in a major city.

    5. Magic Dirt seems to constantly be under whites and asians, even when they move around to different dirt patches. Tragic Dirt seems to always follow People of Color, even when they move to different dirt patches.

    6. The more immigration from Tragic Dirt countries, the more Tragic Dirt there appears to be in the First World countries. Political entities like Detroit or Baltimore, which have become majority Tragic Dirt, appear to develop cycles of extreme government incompetence and civil society breakdown.

  5. I was 99% sure this piece was written by an academic after reading the first two paragraphs. I like to call those sort of essays “muddy-the-waters attempts”. In 2019, left leaning intellectuals like Kiss can seldom win the arguments based on the raw facts alone, so they basically have to needlessly complexify the issues to give you the impression that you peasants just don’t get it.

    " Like Bernie Sanders, they may worry immigration threatens the living standards of “ordinary” citizens."

    I love the fact that he mentions 2016 Bernie Sanders but that man is gone. He is basically for open borders now.

    "Another approach is to ask why citizens and foreigners should be treated any differently in the first place. "
    Why is this question even brought up? Isn’t that the entire point of citizenship? If not, why bother having a country?

    “Conceptions of citizenship vary across political communities. Some require that someone be born in a given territory and reside there. Some require only that someone’s parent is a citizen.Depending on the conception, claims about the moral significance of citizenship may be more or less absurd”

    By the same logic, every concept on earth is more or less absurd. Again, the point of this piece is to tell us all peasants that everything is too complex and therefore distinctions are meaningless. I can play that game too. Check this out: “cheese and yogurt go through similar fermentation processes. Claims about differentiating cheese and yogurt may be more or less absurd”

    I could have picked apart many other fallacious arguments in this piece, but previous comments have already done it very well. Honestly, I find this kind of essays frightening. The fact that this guy is at Oxford tells me there is something deeply wrong with our cognitive elites. Western countries are very unlikely to recover from their actions.

  6. "Few Americans would have any doubt that, if someone were to force them to live in the Third World for the rest of their lives, whoever did this would thereby visit a great harm upon them. "

    My hometown had been turned into a third world hell hole thanks to legal and illegal immigration, yet no one on the Left seems to view that as terribly harmful. The white population has gone from 85% to 20%, while crime, welfare dependency, inequality, drug use and homelessness have gone through the roof. People are left sleeping on the sidewalks, just waiting to die (which they will do pretty quickly) but, hey ho, the Democratic Party, thanks to the anti-white vote, now has a stranglehold on the state, so everything is just peachy.

    Academic pieces like this are a bit of a waste of time. Things have moved on and people are taking action themselves.

  7. I suggest the US should legislate a merit based immigration system similar to Canada’s or Australia’s. The legislation can include general guidelines describing merit and the criteria used to award points. My suggestion is to require adults to speak english, to have education, to be healthy and free of a criminal record. Points could also be awarded for having X net worth, credit rating, being married, having children and being within an attractive age bracket. Other considerations could be talent (for example an 18 year old with a great musical talent would get lots of points). The legislation could set a maximum limit (say 10 million immigrants per running decade). Illegal immigration and fake refugee status such as being claimed by Central Americans would be out of the question, but a small amount (say 50000) of bona fide refugees could be included. This would be such as Yaziris fleeing Syria, Venezuelans fleeing the failed socialist experiment, or South Africans fleeing the ongoing murder wave against white farmers.

  8. The aim of american immigration policy should not be to cater to middle class elites from corrupt third world shit holes.

  9. It goes even deeper than that… Sam Kiss’ point is that it is outright illegitimate for a country to even have an immigration policy. He’s saying any limit on any individual wishing to move to another country is a violation of his rights and therefore not an acceptable subject for democratic discussions and decision-making.

  10. I agree that this piece is not particularly well argued. There is one passage that struck me:

    “Many anti-restrictionists happily admit they simply care more about basic rights than they do about democratic procedures, and that they don’t include the right to vote in the set of basic rights.”

    Besides what should be a disturbing claim that anti-restrictrionists may not include the right to vote as basic (a pretty shocking claim that restrictionists side needs to constantly keep in mind) there is glib reference to “basic rights”. I’m assuming the author is no theist (perhaps I’m wrong here) and is most likely some sort of scientific naturalist. I want to ask, how, then, do we know what basic rights are? If it’s not the eternal gaze of an immaterial soul (which naturalism rules out), what then? How do we make sense of these odd things called “basic rights”? They don’t seem to have any mass. Are they abstract objects up in some eternal Platonic heaven? While not quite religious, that still sounds quasi-theological. What the author will not want to admit is the historical nature of “basic rights”, because that would entail a bit of moderation and respect towards the very historical communities, the sources of those rights, which is policies would destroy with impunity.

  11. Excellent rebuttal to this argument in favour of open borders, which is basically the negation of the right to the existence of individual countries and the right of governments to act in the interests of their existing populations.

    The demonization of “nativism” and “nationalism” as intrinsically evil means governments are denied the right to do what governments are supposed to be elected to do, i.e. protect their existing populations and their interests.

    We are being told no one has a right to a secure home, and should be ready to “move over” and cede their home to anyone who wants it, particularly if they claim they need it more.

    Um, no.

  12. Others have criticized the linguistic and logical sleights of hand in this article so well …

    What I find fascinating is that pro-open borders people never ask why one country should have open borders and loose definitions of citizenship while others maintain their borders and standards of citizenship without criticism?

    Too, almost never discussed is are the hard physical limitations on immigration, particularly large numbers over short time frame. True, people came to the USA in floods during some periods but they were expected to fend for themselves. Hardscrabble stories of bare survival abound. Unlike today’s immigrants who we are somehow expected to house, feed, educate, provide healthcare, transportation, myriad social services etc.

    Just the pressures on housing, sanitation, schools, roads, energy and jobs alone are hard physical limits that are difficult to ramp up quickly. Controlled orderly levels of immigration are only logical but this is castigated as miserly and racist.

    “There is plenty of room” we hear and of course that is true if people were migrating to eke out a living in the undeveloped vastness relying only on their hard labor, wits and determination. But we all know this is not the expectation.

    If we are going to have mass immigration something has to give. We can’t ramp up a 21st C hyper-consumerist lifestyle (compared to the places of origins for most) for millions upon millions in a short time frame, even if we really wanted to.

  13. The discussion in this article about limts on democracy was a bit of a curate’s egg. Ultimately it also dodged the central issue.
    It would seem that the anti-restrictionists believe that non-citizens not even yet in the country have as many rights as citizens, and that somehow procedural democracy cannot prevent the right of a foreigner to settle on the country’s soil.
    Mass immigration in Britain has been fundamentall undemocratic, because no politician ever went to the people at an election and told them openly that the flood gates would be opened. Restricting immigration is and always has been a policy area on which the people have the right to vote on. The authopr’s idea that somehow there is a moral viewpoint that allows governments to bypass democratic procedures in relation to immigration is one of the most evil things I’ve heard of in a long time.
    Citizens have the right to have a say on restricting the immigration. That is fundamental to a country’s whole existence.

  14. I am beginning to take the position, that anyone engaging in discussions of immigration, either politically or philosophically, should first acknowledge that there profound, deeply-rooted differences between the ways that psychological liberals and psychological conservatives experience the world, that will always lead to an irreconcilable gulf in perspectives, which is beyond understanding for those who have not read the literature. Far too often, there is an assumption made, especially by liberals, that with better information and more education people can be bought into the fold, when the truth is that the roots of the gulf lie in a singular lack of empathy, on the part of liberals.

    I too was guilty of this, as a UK citizen who simply couldn’t why people voted Brexit. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of. It took a long time to put together what I had learned from Jonathan Haidt’s ‘The Righteous Mind’, watching professors like Eric Kaufmann (I do plan to read his book) and listening to commentators like Brendan O’ Neill and Andrew Doyle, before I could fundamentally re-evaluate my thinking and put together all the pieces of the complex jigsaw puzzle that is the divergent thinking on immigration, that is every bit as culturally contentious as a cultural mass divorce.

    The conclusion I have come to is that we should treat the differences between psychological conservatives and psychological liberals as every bit as potent as differences in sexuality. Because the psychological liberal will always be excited by new cultures and new experiences, they will always want to break down cultural mores and norms, they will want to downplay our own history (unless it is the criticise), our culture and sense of national identity, all in the cause of making the new arrival feel more welcome and comfortable in their difference and instituting a multiculturalism in which all can thrive. By contrast, the psychological conservative is most comfortable with the known and familiar, wants to protect culture, history and national identity, and derives a very real sense of belonging to a community of shared values.

    The problem is that in attempting to preserve or create our own perfect worlds, we are crafting a dystopia for our psychological opposites. To the conservative, being forced to live in a multicultural country is to experience a very real sense of mourning for what has been lost, a nostalgic pain for what can only be described as a lost limb, psychologically speaking. For the liberal, the sameness and uniformity of a monoculture, is the metaphorical straitjacket that will slowly drive them mad. We wouldn’t ask a straight man to become homosexual, just as we now see the practice of forcing someone homosexual to undergo conversion therapy as rightly abhorrent- so why do we insist on forcing others live in a world for which their psychologically ingrained moral foundations are inherently unfit, and likely to result in misery, depression and self-isolation. Perhaps because we are profoundly ignorant of the very real difference between us.

    It really is the last acceptable form of bigotry and intolerance, perhaps fueled by the deeply mistaken belief that one is combating bigotry and intolerance. So what’s the solution? Well, ironically the solution lies in understanding that newcomers to Western countries usually have far more in common with psychological conservatives than psychological liberals. It’s a product of how they grew up, and why they invariably choose to live in close communities when they migrate to new countries. Although celebrating their difference may make them feel more welcome, it certainly won’t make them feel more comfortable. For that, you need the shared sense of values and aspiration that integration brings and which the conservative relies upon for a sense of belonging. Adoption into the umbrella of a shared sense of national identity really is better for them, as well as society as a whole.

    Perhaps the most interesting talk I’ve seen Jonathan Haidt give is when he tried to explain to a room full of liberals that multiculturalism causes racism, intolerance and bigotry, rather than curing it.

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