Tag Archives: bleg

Universalist defenses of citizenism bleg

We here at Open Borders have been putting in quite a bit of effort into addressing citizenism. But I think there are some defenses of citizenism that people have in their minds which haven’t been quite clearly articulated. Specifically, these are defenses of citizenism from a universalist perspective. In other words, these are defenses that go along the lines of: if everybody behaved citizenistically, the world would be a better place from a universalistic perspective. [UPDATE: As BK points out in the comments, such a defense can argue from “realism” by saying that citizenism is the only practical ethics that lies at the intersection of the feasible and the universally good, so pure rational universalist-utilitarianism, even if better in theory, is not a realistic option to consider]

A good analogy is Adam Smith’s invisible hand metaphor, something that economists over the last two centuries have worked on elaborating. The metaphor explains how, when each individual acts in his/her self-interest (subject to moral side constraints) the world is benefited more than if each individual were to act as if the interests of all individuals mattered equally. Here are a couple of Adam Smith’s quotes:

By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

To take another example, a utilitarian may argue that if everybody believed in libertarian natural rights, the world would be a better place, so it is okay to preach a normative ethics of respect for natural rights, even though the utilitarian may not believe in natural rights per se. Might the universalist similarly argue that even though citizenism is false in a meta-ethical sense, it still makes sense as a practical ethics for people to follow, if it yields the best universalist fruit?

I can sort of see how to make this argument, but since I’m not a citizenist, I may not actually be able to do justice to this case. Obviously, one possible universalist justification of citizenism is that it helps maintain closed borders, which you may consider good from a universalist perspective. I’m interested in whether there are other justifications that come to your mind.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

PS: Here’s a relevant quote from Sailer:

Personally, I am a citizenist. That is not a word you see often (here are all twelve uses of the word known to Google) which is not surprising because few pundits seem to think like this.

My starting point in analyzing policies is: “What is in the best overall interests of the current citizens of the United States?”

In contrast, so many others think in terms of: “What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?”

Precisely because basing loyalties upon a legal category defined by our elected representatives is so unnatural, it’s the least destructive and most uplifting form of allegiance humanly possible on an effective scale.

Note: I’d really appreciate if you use the comments to address citizenism and its universalistic defenses, rather than general issues you have with open borders. For general issues with open borders, please consider commenting on the open borders open thread for November.

Bleg: four possible positions on immigration and US politics

There are lots of different theories about immigration and its impact on US politics, specifically on how it will affect the power balance between Democrats and Republicans. I am largely agnostic, though I doubt the validity of tipping point arguments. Logically, I can make out four broad positions one can stake on immigration and US politics. I’m curious to hear from readers and co-bloggers about the relative merits of the positions:

  1. Immigration good for Democrats, bad for Republicans regardless of either party’s position on immigration. In other words, even if the Republicans took a pro-immigration stance, more immigration would still hurt them. The electing a new people argument offered by Peter Brimelow of VDARE has this structure. Mark Krikorian of CIS also makes similar arguments. This argument naturally appeals to:
    • Those trying to sell restrictionism to the Republican Party.
    • Those trying to sell pro-immigration policies to the Democratic Party.
  2. Immigration good for Republicans, bad for Democrats regardless of either party’s position on immigration. I don’t know anybody who has taken this position, but I’m adding it for logical completeness. This argument naturally appeals to:
    • Those trying to sell pro-immigration policies to the Republican Party.
    • Those trying to sell restrictionism to the Democratic Party.
  3. Immigration good for whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance: In this view, both parties need to compete to be more pro-immigration, and whichever party manages to be more pro-immigration will benefit more from immigration. This seems to be the view of many open borders advocates and other pro-immigration forces, such as my co-blogger Nathan here and here. This argument naturally appeals to pro-immigration forces trying to simultaneously make inroads into both parties, setting up a “race to open borders” between both parties.
  4. Immigration bad for whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance: In this view, both parties gain from adopting a more restrictionist stance. Restrictionists who are trying to make a broad-based appeal to both parties would find this argument appealing. In this view, the vote of people with restrictionist sympathies matters a lot more than the votes of potential immigrants and their apologists. Thus, whichever party adopts a more pro-immigration stance will lose a lot more in terms of restrictionist votes, even if they gain a few immigrant votes. Such an argument, if believed, would lead to a “race to closed borders” between both parties. Some restrictionists have made these types of arguments, though they’ve largely focused on (1).

There are a lot of complications that can be added:

  • The story may be different for different subsets of immigrants based on ethnic group, skill level, country of origin, time within the US, etc.
  • It is possible to be pro-immigrant while being anti-immigration. It is also possible to appeal to the interests of immigrants qua ethnic group rather than qua immigrant.
  • It is possible to combined restrictionist rhetoric with a quiet support for more immigration, thus appealing to restrictionists. If you are a pro-Democratic Party person who believes a mix of (1) and (4), you would be tempted to favor apparently restrictionist rhetoric from your Party while quietly allowing for more immigration and more citizenship/amnesty.
  • Similarly, it is possible to combine pro-immigration rhetoric with a quiet support for less immigration, thus appealing to the vote of people who have solidarity with immigrants and favor a pro-immigration stance, while at the same time trying to curtail the growth of immigrant groups who may be hostile to your party. For instance, a pro-Republican Party person who believes a mix of (1) and (3) would be tempted to follow this strategy.

So, which of the stories (1)-(4) is most likely true? Please feel free to provide separate answers for different immigrant groups separated by whatever criteria you prefer, and feel free to incorporate the above complications or any others you can think of.