Immigration, identity, nationality, citizenship, and democracy

A subtle danger for open borders advocates is that we may devote too much attention to arguments from eloquent restrictionists who, however, are themselves well outside the mainstream. Restrictionists like Steve Sailer at least have arguments that can be answered. But those arguments tend to have a “hard right” flavor that would probably alienate most Americans, who, however, are not open borders supporters, either. Unlike the restrictionist hard right, the mainstream is largely destitute of arguments, dealing rather in arbitrary and groundless moral assertions, e.g., “we have to control our borders,” or in wildly false claims of fact, e.g., “all we’re asking is that they put forth some effort and come in legally.” The great fact that we live in a world apartheid regime where most people are excluded from birth from the United States and generally from the most prosperous countries and because of this are subject to far more poverty, violence, and political tyranny than the favored few, is not something that the mainstream has come to grips with and cold-bloodedly endorsed. It is something that the mainstream is largely ignorant of. They suspect; they hear rumors; they could inquire further and neglect to do so; but the moral test still largely lies in wait for them. The main task of an open borders advocate, then, is less to answer a body of coherent arguments, than to wander in a kind of shadowland of ignorance and be prepared to counter all manner of naive claims that might jump out of the darkness. What people will ultimately say when they’ve realized the nature of the world apartheid regime we’re living in is hard to predict. They might say anything or nothing. They might become instant, skin-deep converts to open borders, only to flip as soon as the word “illegal immigrant” is mentioned, or the likelihood that some natives would see their wages fall. Or they might make any of the arguments in the drop-down menus at this site, or others… although come to think of it, the background articles at this site do seem to do a pretty good job of outlining the major themes in the inarticulate mainstream resistance to open borders. Anyway, it’s probably more important to answer this mainstream resistance than to duel with Steve Sailer and other articulate restrictionists who, however, are almost as far outside the mainstream as open borders advocates themselves are.

Now, my sense is that the focal point of mainstream resistance to open borders, which prevents people from seeing the issues clearly in the first place, and shapes their reactions when they have understood it, lies, somehow, in the intersection between the five concepts mentioned in the title of this post: immigration, identity, nationality, citizenship, and democracy. Who are we? to begin with, as the title of Samuel Huntington’s book asks. If people immigrate, who are they? Are immigrants them or us? What nationality is an immigrant? What about citizenship? On what basis can and/or should citizenship be granted or withheld? Do “we”– whatever that means– have the right to grant or withhold citizenship as we see fit, or are there some principles of justice at stake here, constraining what we can do? If there are principles, what are they? If citizenship can be withheld from other people, can it not be withheld… from (thinks the ordinary person) me? Why not? What we’re up against is not so much a set of convictions as a set of confusions. As long as everyone you deal with is a citizen and a national and a resident, etc., of one’s own country, as long as we’re all “the same,” all these questions don’t arise. That’s a nice, secure feeling. Immigrants cast doubt on all the usual categories.

Democracy is relevant here because it gives all these questions particular urgency. As I always say, democracy is a good form of government because the people who live under the laws have a say in what they are, and immigration restrictions are the mathematical limiting case of undemocratic law because the set of people who are on the receiving end of them is the exact inverse of the set of people who have a say in making them. This argument will probably strike anyone but a dogmatic restrictionist as plausible, but it is problematic because the suggestion that foreigners ought to be given votes does not lend itself to any obvious structural realization. Should the entire human race get to vote in American elections inasmuch as they touch on foreign and immigration policy? How would that work exactly? “One person, one vote,” runs the democratic slogan, but we don’t actually mean that every single person gets one vote. Children and felons aside, we mean that every single… well, citizen… or maybe, national… gets to vote. In short, every one of us? But again, who are “we?” Open borders advocates can respond to the electing a new people argument by saying: Let them in, but don’t automatically let them vote. But where does that leave “one man, one vote?” Where does that leave democracy? Immigrants are a threat partly in the same way that the returning heir of a deposed dynasty is a threat: he may not be doing any harm for the time being, but his mere presence is a challenge to the reigning principles of legitimacy.

Ideas about nationality and citizenship vary greatly around the world. This was brought home to me during my travels in the Caucasus, where I was often asked Kto ty po natsionalnosti?— “What nationality are you?” I would say Amerikanets, “American,” but they would object, Net, eto — grazhdanstvo. Kto ty po natsionalnosti? “No, that’s a citizenship. What nationality are you?” For people in the Caucasus, nationality vs. citizenship is a fundamental distinction. States and empires have come and gone, making and bestowing and revoking and altering various citizenships; and people move about, too; but Azeris, Georgians, Ossetians, Armenians, Lezgins, Russians, Chechens, Avars, Kabardins, Ingush, and so forth remain. You can’t become an Azeri; you’re born one, or not; at any rate, that’s the local ideology. It’s not true. A colleague of mine had an Armenian name but was Azeri and Russian by blood. In the chaos of the revolution, her grandfather had simply put an Armenian aristocratic suffix on his name because he liked it, as if I were to call myself Nathan O’Smith because I like the Irish, or Nathan von Smith from pretensions to be a Germanic philosopher descended from some castle-owning baron. Of course, I couldn’t get away with that here, but literate history is not very deep in the Caucasus, and many personal and place names have been Russified, though Russian rule dates no earlier than the 18th and 19th centuries. But the local ideology assigns people to “national” categories by birth, and treats citizenship as a political superficiality overlaid on the ancient facts of nationality. Since there are no ancient demographic facts (not even pretended ones) in America (Amerindians aside), people in the Caucasus don’t accept “American” as a nationality. I insisted: Amerikanets. I have some English and Norwegian roots, of which I know little and care less. They are not the most fundamental fact about who I am. They are not, to an American, really important. The point, though, is not that the American view of nationality and citizenship is better or worse than that of the Caucasus, but simply that concepts of personal and collective identity vary greatly, both in the world today and over the course of history. The former Soviet Union is the region that I know best, other than the US, but co-blogger Grieve Chelwa discusses the artificiality of borders in Africa, and my impression is that in the Middle East, tribal identities on the one hand and pan-Arab and even pan-Islamic identities are more important than “national” ones, while in Latin America solidarity within countries is impeded by racial divisions and class stratification and nationality is somewhat eclipsed by regional identity among the Catholic Spanish speakers ranged from the Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande. The US, parts of western Europe, and a few East Asian countries, where nationality = citizenship supplies a powerful source of identity that unites polities, are exceptional.

Why does identity matter? Voter status aside, is it– to broaden a question recently raised by co-blogger Sebastian Nickel– morally relevant? Before answering that, what kinds of identity are there? We classify human beings in many ways: nationality, citizenship, class, caste, religion, gender, family, tribe, civilization, race, education, profession, place of employment, place of residence, political party, membership in clubs and societies and organizations, honors and achievements, and no doubt many others. Answers to the question “Who are you?” might identify a person in any number of ways, but virtually always they will help to define and distinguish a person while also establishing their membership in one group or another. “I am a Christian” or “I am a Communist” establishes one as a member of a broad community of believers. “I am an American” defines a nationality and a citizenship; “I am an Azeri” establishes a nationality but not a citizenship, for there are Azeri citizens of Russia and Georgia as well. One might also say, “I am a parishioner of Holy Trinity parish,” or “I am a member of the American Economic Association,” or “I am a sculptor,” or “I am Joseph’s brother-in-law.” People have, not one identity, e.g., American, but many identities, overlapping and interacting in complex ways, sometimes in tension, sometimes reinforcing each other, sometimes compatible but not particularly relevant. One can be an economist and a Republican or an economist and a Democrat: both combinations are entirely feasible, though a Republican economist is probably a somewhat different kind of economist (more free-marketeer) than a Democratic economist, as a Lutheran plumber is probably not different from a Presbyterian plumber.

Now, it’s not too hard to see why some of these kinds of identity are morally relevant. Religious identity, for example, is morally relevant because believers in various religions feel morally bound to abide by the various rules of those religion (though of course they don’t always live up to this), and also because religious rituals tend to regulate participation according to religious status. It would be immoral for a non-Catholic to commune in a Catholic church, for example, because at least from the Catholic point of view this is sacrilege, and there should always be a presumption against doing things that are gravely offensive to others. Professional identity is morally relevant, because professional skills qualify one to do things that non-professionals can’t do safely (or even legally). It would be immoral for a non-pilot to fly a commercial airplane, or for a non-doctor to conduct a surgery. Family identity is morally relevant: it is all right for a woman to sleep with her own husband, but not to seduce another woman’s husband; it is all right for a man to tell his own children what to do and punish them for disobedience, but not (usually) for him to order around, or punish, other people’s children.

Let me try some more challenging suggestions. Might it be morally unacceptable for a philosopher to accept a traditional prejudice for which he could discover no arguments in favor, yet at the same time, morally acceptable for a laymen (non-philosopher) to accept the same traditional prejudice? The layman doesn’t have the time or talent to reason things out for himself with any kind of depth or thoroughness, so the best he can do is largely to believe what he’s told. But the philosopher is capable of thinking things through, of doubting, of demanding, seeking and appraising evidence, and of exploring alternatives, so for him, to accept a traditional prejudice that critical reasoning tends to challenge or overturn, would be culpable lazy-mindedness. Again, might it be acceptable for a peasant to run away in the face of danger, but unacceptable for a knight to do the same? In the knight, perhaps, but not in the peasant, there has been inculcated a certain ethos of valor which is both noble and useful, and society expects him to take risks and fight for what he thinks is right; but the peasant has never been taught such virtues, and what society tacitly asks of him is merely that he labor to support his family. How about this case: a certain Leader, not possessing any particular legal authority but full of wisdom and experience and commanding deference from many people thanks to his prestige and charisma, has ordered you and me to look after and protect each other. The Leader is a busy man and did not stay to hear our answer, and we only exchanged glances with each other, yet each of us expects the other to fulfill the Leader’s expectations. Has a kind of social contract been created, even without explicit consent, with some force to bind me to protect you in time of danger, and vice versa? Is such a thing possible?

From arguments like the above I would derive an argument that countries tend to be morally relevant, though I think virtually any parallelism between the “countries” of the contemporary world is without merit, and while countries are morally relevant, they are relevant in very different ways. For example, consider the issue of how the cultural legacy of mankind is to be preserved. We cannot all learn all there is to know about all cultures: that’s far too much to fit into any human being’s mind. But it is desirable that much of mankind’s cultural legacy be preserved. Not all of it: there is an opportunity cost to preserving cultural artifacts, and many, many cultural artifacts just aren’t worth preserving. But it probably is desirable that many people have read Shakespeare, and Hemingway, and Tolstoy; that many people are Bob Dylan fans or know how to square dance; that many people have thoroughly absorb the ethos of Dostoyevsky; that many people understand Kant and Hegel and the whole brilliant succession of German philosophers; and so forth. And it might be quite a wise division of labor for many people to give a priority to mastering the treasures of “their own” culture, for Germans to know something about Kant and Russians something about Dostoyevsky and Americans something about Dylan. Aside from being (probably) an efficient way to preserve mankind’s cultural legacy, this is also likely to give German, Russian, and American neighbors something to talk about with each other. And fellow nationals can help one another master the national curriculum. It is surely easier to find someone to introduce you to the genius of Dylan in America than it would be in Germany.

Again, in matters like disaster relief or national defense, mere informational and logistical considerations can do much of the work in establishing a principle that people should prioritize their own compatriots. Americans, it may plausibly be suggested, are better able to discern how much aid hurricane-hit New Orleans needs, and what kind and when, than Europeans are. When it comes to customs and manners, the best thing to do morally may often be to learn whatever customs and manners prevail locally and practice them, so as to ease communication and cooperation and hospitality. There are obvious advantages to having people who live near one another speak the same language, and this makes a certain degree of linguistic segregation efficient. It does not follow that non-English speakers can be excluded from America by force, but that linguistic homogeneity is a reasonable desideratum for societies is clear enough.

Yet in spite of all these arguments, I don’t think there is or ought to be a general answer to the question “What is nationality?” It means different things to different people, and all the things it means have their own histories and their own usefulness. The sovereign nation-state paradigm of politics which has been universalized since World War II attempts to organize the world on a national principle, treating this as a universal feature of human nature and human society, when it isn’t. This leads to all manner of awkwardness.

When it comes to citizenship, the famous dictum of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” is instructive by how quixotic and irrelevant to contemporary affairs it sounds. In the United States, citizenship is automatic and doesn’t demand anything of us. It can’t legitimately demand anything of us because it’s automatic. Conscription used to demand a real sacrifice of citizens, which was rather unjust, since citizens hadn’t agreed to be citizens. But at least, in the time of conscription, it was not bogus to speak of the duties of citizenship. Well, there is jury duty, too. And taxes, only they are not a duty associated with citizenship, for people with low enough incomes need not pay them, while resident foreigners who are earning wages do have to pay them. Citizens do not have to vote, but “good citizenship” is nonetheless a plausible explanation of why so many people do vote, and devote considerable effort to following politics in order to decide whom to vote for. Volunteering for the military might be another way to practice “good citizenship,” but only a small part of the population does that. If citizenship involved more duties to go with the privileges, one could argue that immigrants be allowed to perform the duties and thereby earn the privileges of citizenship.

I argued earlier that there are many kinds of identity. Let me add that it is quite false to suppose that there is some natural or necessary hierarchy among these kinds of identity, such that national identity is somehow the most important or basic or fundamental. One person might be an American first, Christian second; another might regard Christianity as his only real ultimate loyalty and being an American a mere practical asset; a third might consider himself a sociologist first and foremost and at home only in the international community of sociologists. I believe that the primacy which our own age attaches to nationality and citizenship vis-a-vis other forms of identity is anomalous and problematic. We may need to give freedom of association more respect, and allow other forms of identity to flourish, while at the same time we need to be more generous in recognizing and defending the rights simply of human beings as such. The trouble is that one of the functions of identity is to provide a moral structure for society, and people are justifiably nervous that if we deny the moral relevance of countries, we’ll end up with a society deficient in structure, excessively fluid and chaotic. There are many ways to answer the questions Who am I? and Who are we? but there probably is some danger that people will ultimately be left saying, “I don’t know,” or with answers so haphazard, subjective, and changeable as to be almost empty. Such, at any rate, is my attempt to diagnose the vague fears of the mainstream about open borders.

Nathan Smith is an assistant professor of economics at Fresno Pacific University. He did his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and has also worked for the World Bank. Smith proposed Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It, one of the more comprehensive keyhole solution proposals to address concerns surrounding open borders.

See also:

Page about Nathan Smith on Open Borders
All blog posts by Nathan Smith

16 thoughts on “Immigration, identity, nationality, citizenship, and democracy”

  1. “What people will ultimately say when they’ve realized the nature of the world apartheid regime we’re living in is hard to predict.”

    A common response I see is the argument that immigration restrictions do not in of themselves constitute a harm or form of coercion towards immigrants. I find this difficult to comprehend (so if the guards shooting people trying to cross the Berlin Wall had been West German instead of East German, this would be ok?) but it seems to be a common enough moral intuition that it ought to be better understood and discussed.

  2. I agree with a lot of what is said here. For example, I think it is important to note that there is no hierarchy of identity association, and people don’t always have a strict logical explanation for how they feel.

    Still, I think it goes a little too far to say that their fears are based on “arbitrary and groundless moral assertions”. People interpret what they see, but what they see is real. So here are a few kinds of “evidence” that serve as the basis for how many people think:

    1. They see people living in our country that don’t speak our language. Language is one of the most fundamental pieces that makes up who we consider to be part of our in group. It is a bit easier to dehumanize someone you can’t communicate with.

    2. They see our schools struggling to serve the children of immigrants. As a public school teacher in an immigrant rich neighborhood I can assure you that it doesn’t make the job of teaching our children any easier. There is real work to be done to help people assimilate, and some are wary of assuming this burden.

    3. They see immigrants committing crime. I know this has been a big issue here in Utah, and I am sure it is significant in other states, but I want to mention the case of Sweden because that countries situation is quite interesting. It was until recently very homogeneous, and then they admitted a significant number of refugees into the country from the Middle East and North Africa. Now they have more rape and race riots.

    4. They see people in this country without jobs, and worry about pressure that immigrants put on the wages of low skilled workers.

    These aren’t well thought out moral arguments, but they are real phenomenon that we can’t really sweep under the rug. Since the status quo in our country involves heavy regulation of immigration, those of us who support open borders should accept the burden of proof.

    I support open borders (with selected keyhole solutions) because in my estimation the economic and cultural benefits for our society outweigh the costs. I think the costs are huge, but the benefits are even more immense. It also gives me some pleasure to support political change that has the potential for vastly improving many other peoples’ lives. But to be honest, I am not sure where my opinion would fall if my moral sentiments were in conflict with my estimation of the consequences for my own society.

    1. Crime, language, unemployment, and schools is a good list of mainstream-ish as opposed to “hard right” complaints (though the “hard right” cites them too). Nonetheless, I think there are a lot of wildly false claims of facts behind mainstream attitudes.

  3. Nathan,
    You sir, attempting to defend endless open borders with your grand prose fail and fail miserably to understand the “exponential equation” and that, sir, equals your downfall as as pseudo-intellectual. You cannot overrun any country’s carrying capacity via endless immigration from a world that adds 80 million net gain annually. That finishes your pretend knowledge on what you really don’t know and do not understand. I find it fascinating, but painful that you and fellow open borders writers cannot perform simple math. FW

    1. “Carrying capacity” is one of the least persuasive restrictionist arguments. Japan has high living standards with a far higher population density than the United States. Singapore has even higher living standards with a far higher population density even than Japan. The USA isn’t anywhere CLOSE to the maximum population density the land can support. The Boston-to-Washington DC corridor is the most densely populated part of the USA, and if the whole USA had the same population density as the Boston-to-Washington corridor, I suppose the US population would be five times what it is today. Obviously, the Boston-to-Washington corridor is perfectly liveable. Maybe we’d need to import food, but there’s nothing wrong with doing that. See some previous posts:

      Of course, if we DID push up against the limits of carrying capacity, demand for immigration would fall. But we wouldn’t.

      1. Nathan,
        Again, you are completely out of touch with reality. I lived in Japan. They are TOTALLY dependent on oil from the Middle East and other countries. The must import all their raw materials to build cars and other goods. They could not exist without raw material imports and oil. Thus, they live off other countries and could not exist on their own with their horrific population of 135 million. Since we’re talking about carrying capacity, the USA cannot survive without the 7 out of 10 barrels of oil it imports daily while it burns 22 million barrels a day. Therefore, carrying capacity, when you understand it, is the MOST persuasive argument. And, I am not a restrictionist. We can allow limited immigration as long as it equals outflow migration to equal net zero gain. You are completely out of touch with the “exponential equation” and until you “get” that simple math fact, all your examples of Singapore and other countries means nothing. I find it amusing that you lack any understanding of what you speak. These books will educate you:
        Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, edited by Philip Cafaro and Eileen Crist, 2012
        The World Without Us, Alan Weisman 2007 A scholarly research on how the Earth will fare after Homo sapiens are gone.
        Man Swarm, and the Killing of Wildlife, Dave Foreman 2011 Mankind as locusts.
        Take Conservation Back, Dave Foreman, 2013
        The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, what America faces when oil runs out.
        Overshoot by William Catton
        Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
        Peek Everything: Facing a century of Declines by Richard Heinberg
        Plan B, 4.0, Saving Civilization by Lester Brown
        The Population Fix by Edward C. Hartman
        America on the Brink: The Next Added 100 Million Americans by Frosty Wooldridge

        1. Er, yes, Japan is dependent on imports of oil and other raw materials. But again, there’s nothing wrong that. New York is also dependent on imports of raw materials. There’s no reason at all that the raw materials and primary products people need should originate within the borders of the polity they live in. The US, too, as you mention, relies on imports of oil. We’ve done so for decades while maintaining high and generally rising living standards. Self-sufficient in raw materials is not an appropriate desideratum of economic policy.

          1. Nathan,
            You forget that we passed Peak Oil in 2011, and now, we face no oil and no energy to fill the tanks of those tractors to plow the ground and harvest the crops, but we will have 7.1 billion people to feed when oil runs out within 40 years. I fail to understand why you can’t grasp that reality.

            The green revolution was instigated as a result of the efforts of Norman Borlaug, who, while accepting the Nobel peace prize in 1970, said: “The green revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only.”

            “The cheap oil age created an artificial bubble of plentitude for a period not much longer than a human lifetime….so I hazard to assert that as oil ceases to be cheap and the world reserves move toward depletion, we will be left with an enormous population…that the ecology of the earth will not support. The journey back toward non-oil population homeostasis will not be pretty. We will discover the hard way that population hyper growth was simply a side-effect of the oil age. It was a condition, not a problem with a solution. That is what happened and we are stuck with it.” James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency

            Endless immigration from a world that adds 80 million net gain annually cannot be sustained by first world or any countries because of a lack of carrying capacity. Not to mention humans are shredding the planet’s eco systems. Your arguments hold no water, no merit and no common sense or mathematical understanding. FW

    2. Hi Frosty! It’s indeed an honor to have you comment on this blog, insofar as it exposes our readers to a diverse range of perspectives.

      I’m a bit intrigued by your discussion of the “exponential equation” as you call it. I do have some knowledge of mathematics, having dabbled in the subject a bit myself (though perhaps not as extensively as you have). I’ll also admit that I haven’t read the references you cite, so perhaps my questions might come across as somewhat naive. If so, I’d really appreciate it if you could bear with me and elaborate.

      1. To the best of my knowledge, population models that include or account for carrying capacity are not exponential growth models. The standard models used are logistic functions, such as Verhulst processes. These models have the property that growth looks close to exponential when the population is far below carrying capacity, but that it slows down (growth is concave down) when the population reaches close to carrying capacity, and it asymptotically approaches carrying capacity as time goes to infinity. In most of the standard models, it is rarely the case that population actually crosses carrying capacity and then falls down, so if you are drawing your inspiration from these models, then the population shouldn’t be above carrying capacity. Further, if populations are growing exponentially, that would be evidence against being close to carrying capacity. There do exist some counterexamples: for instance, the Lotka-Volterra equation describes predator-prey interaction, and the solutions to these could involve two oscillatory functions that are off by a phase angle. Are you suggesting that human populations are better modeled by such an equation, with humans as predators and nature as prey? Do you have another model in mind? I’m genuinely interested.

      2. The main justification for exponential growth rate models in the context of population growth is that there is an average fertility rate for the population, and in so far as the fertility is above replacement levels, this leads to a fixed proportional growth per generation. It’s not clear to me that migration fits the model for exponential growth as opposed to linear or polynomial growth. I think you might mean that once the migrants are here, then they will exponentially grow the population through their children. Is that what you mean? People less mathematically sophisticated than you may benefit from the clarification.

      Thank you once again for dropping by!

  4. “The great fact that we live in a world apartheid regime”….

    Nathan makes the argument that national sovereignty with regards to border control is iniquitous because it’s a from of “world apartheid”. Reviewing the term “apartheid”, confirms my previous understanding of: ” establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”, How this can seriously be equated with border control is beyond me. National Sovereignty is rooted in the idea of self determination which is rooted in the principle of anti-domination. The underlying concept is that peoples, however defined, have the right to govern themselves and to look after their own good, however defined. A natural part of self governing and seeking self interest is regulating borders and citizenship membership. The reason “apartheid” is viewed negatively is because it represents an instance in which a national subgroup, typically ethnic, is denied participation in the national self- determining process and is given only secondary consideration when it comes to the national good. In short, apartheid is seen as a violation of the principles of self determination. The solution to this is either secession or integration. Nathan is obviously making the superficial association between the exclusion of nationals form the national self determining process and the exclusion of non nationals from this same process. Yet the difference is that between excluding a co-owner from making property decisions (such as who can use the property) versus excluding a non owner. Most people would grant that the former is problematic because both individuals have ownership rights to the property, not because no one at all has such rights. But the latter is what Nathan is effectively arguing — that peoples do not have the right to self determination — which involves the right to exclude. He is reducing the issue of apartheid down to one of exclusion. White South Africans not letting Black South Africans vote under Apartheid SA is like Black South Africans not letting Nigerians vote. Same Same. But it isn’t — unless you disregards idea of self determination. .On a more philosophical level, I can account for the problem of apartheid, -as the disenfranchisement of nationals from the self determining process — while upholding the well accepted principle of self determination and the principle of sovereignty over borders. What about Nathan? His radical doctrine of anti-exclusion logically doesn’t stop with nations. Continuing, he says:

    “where most people are excluded from birth from the United States and generally from the most prosperous countries and because of this are subject to far more poverty, violence, and political tyranny than the favored few,”

    I asked this before and I didn’t notice the answer: “Is the primary problem international inequalities or is it the right to self-determination, which entails the right to exclude? That is, if you thought, like John Rawls, that international inequalities could be alleviated by corrected institutional problems, would you agree with him that the migration question was a non issue?”
    If so, perhaps there are alternatives to the draconian solution offered. For example, programs could be set up to encourage those of Nathan’s persuasion to permanently relocate to countries which could employ his expertise to improve their institutions. I myself am not opposed to the idea of substantial international charity; indeed, I feel that excessive affluence tends to do cultures great ill. That asked and said, migration restriction does not preclude residents of poorer countries from living in wealthier countries as it doesn’t keep them from creating their own wealthy nations — it’s not as if the majority of currently impoverished nations lack material resources. Arguing this is akin to myself maintaining that I can’t be wealthy because you won’t give me access to your savings accounts. How exclusionary! But what if, on average, individuals in those regions lacked the capacities for creating successful institutions? An analogical situation would be more and less successful families. I don’t see that the answer there is a kibbutz style organization. At least it isn’t for my type. And I would say the same when it comes to national differences. But people differ. Which is why having different nations with different rules is a good thing.

    1. I certainly see *some* value in what you write here. I mean, if a poor person is denied access to a wealthy person’s bank account, then they will indeed find it harder to climb out of poverty since more money often provides more opportunities and so forth. But at the same time one’s natural talents or lack thereof are also important here. Sure, having more money helps stack the odds a bit more in your favor, but ultimately, if you have natural talents, then your odds of becoming successful with or without extra money are going to be higher–possibly significantly higher–than if you do not have natural talents. This might be especially true from a multi-generational perspective.

      And Yeah, some countries’ success can be attributed to the people who moved over there. Had it not been for mass European settlement in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, mass Chinese settlement in Singapore, or mass Ashkenazi Jewish settlement in Israel, then I doubt that those countries/territories would have actually been anywhere near as prosperous as they actually are right now. So, Yes, often a country’s success or lack thereof does to a significant extent depend on the composition of its population at a group level. But of course there are also exceptions: For instance, the Soviet Union, or Mao’s China, or North Korea.

  5. Coordination of immigration policies poses a challenge for nationality laws, which belong to “the hard core of the identity and independence of the States” (97) and are still exclusive MS competences. Even establishment of Union citizenship, which obviously bound all the MS nationals together, did not entail any official cooperation in this field.

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