Tag Archives: citizenism

Citizenism versus collective property rights, and voters versus representatives

The term citizenism has been much in vogue lately. Sonic Charmer’s blog post I, Citizenist started the trend. My co-blogger Nathan wrote two blog posts on citizenism, one on the citizenist case for open borders and the other on Christianity vs. citizenism. I think co-blogger John Lee also has much to say on citizenism, though (as of now) he hasn’t published his thoughts on citizenism.

However, lest the term “citizenism” get bandied about too loosely, I want to clarify exactly what is meant by the term. The term “citizenism” was first introduced by Steve Sailer. References to and quotes from his writings on the subject are at the citizenism page. Here, I wish to highlight several different aspects of citizenism which are substantiated by quotes from Sailer:

  1. Citizenism places substantially greater weight on the rights and interests of citizens than non-citizens, though, as Nathan pointed out, it operates within moral side-constraints.
  2. Citizenism is about current citizens, not about the people who may become citizens as a result of immigration or deportation policy. Thus, unlike other forms of “analytical nationalism,” it is relatively immune to compositional effects paradoxes. For instance, if a new person were to join the country and earn a below-average income, but were to boost the incomes of all natives, a citizenist would have no problem with this at least from the income angle, but a “maximize-the-average” analytical nationalist would have a problem. On the other hand, a citizenist would object to the deportation of a current citizen with below-average income, despite the effect this may have on raising the national average. Thus, citizenists can calmly refute point (3) in Bryan Caplan’s list of questions in his Vronsky syndrome blog post.
  3. Citizenism, as conceived by Sailer, is both about the individual ethics of voters and about the responsibilities of elected representatives. Sailer is not merely arguing that governments should concern themselves only with the welfare of citizens. He is arguing that citizens, qua citizens, should be concerned primarily about the welfare of their fellow citizens. I am not sure if Sailer would go further and argue that citizens have a duty to favor the interests of fellow citizens even in their private lives, but it certainly seems like he would admire such behavior.
  4. Citizenism is about loyalty, not admiration, toward one’s fellow citizens. A citizenist does not claim that his/her fellow citizens are the world’s best, but simply defends their interests. I think of it as nationalism without romance. As Sailer puts it, a citizenist looks at his less-than-ideal fellow citizen and says, “he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

I think Sonic Charmer, and most other “moderate” citizenists, would have no trouble signing on to (1) and (2). (3) seems to me the most controversial, and Sonic Charmer’s logic for why governments should be citizenist does not (to me) seem to imply (3). My co-blogger Nathan seems to have most of his issues with (3), not with (1) or (2), as he writes in his most recent blog post:

[T]here is a difference between citizenism as a personal meta-ethics and citizenism as a political meta-ethics. Sorry for the jargon. What I mean is that there’s a difference between saying (a) “I only care about Americans” and (b) saying “The government should only care about Americans,” and while (a) is definitely un-Christian, (b) might not be. Someone who believed the US government should help Americans and put near-zero weight on foreigners’ interests, but who thought Americans as individuals are obligated to be generous to foreigners as well, and who is personally very generous, would probably not imperil her soul much by her political attitude, even if she is mistaken.

I want to explain a bit more about why I consider (3) to be particularly significant. To do this, I want to distinguish citizenism from another related idea thrown around by opponents of open borders: the idea of collective property rights. Collective property rights simply asserts that a nation-state has the moral authority to arbitrarily deny non-citizens entry, because the nation-state, as a representative of the people, has property rights over the land, particularly the publicly owned parts of the land (there is a variant of this logic, called the anarcho-capitalist counterfactual). I won’t attempt to rebut this logic here — the collective property rights page discusses various rebuttals. Rather, my goal here is to highlight the differences between collective property rights and citizenism.

Collective property rights is simply an assertion that the nation-state, via its elected government, can deny non-citizens entry. Claims of collective property rights do not, in and of themselves, offer any guidance on when and how these rights should be exercised. Continue reading “Citizenism versus collective property rights, and voters versus representatives” »

Christianity vs. citizenism

In my most recent post, I wrote the following passage:

I am certainly no citizenist myself. In fact, for purposes of the present post, I’d rather not admit what my attitude to citizenism as a meta-ethics is, because it would set quite the wrong tone. However, I feel I have to mention it in passing, because if I were to write a post on citizenism without mentioning it, I might seem to convey, implicitly, an attitude of moral tolerance for what ought not to be morally tolerated. So I’ll say it: I believe, for the record, that a thorough-going, principled citizenism is appallingly wicked, and diametrically opposed to Christianity, and that practitioners of a citizenist meta-ethics are in danger of hellfire. You see why, if I’m right, I felt the need to warn you.

On second thought, I should probably offer more explanation here. Of course, I am writing primarily to Christians here. Atheists (and people of other religious persuasions) don’t believe in hellfire (or have completely different guidelines for what deserves hellfire), and in that sense, they are just spectators for this post, although if they want to ask questions, everyone is welcome. This post is by way of clarification.

First, while it may sound like an insult to say “practitioners of citizenist meta-ethics are in danger of hellfire,” the point is not to insult anyone, still less to engage in careless and hyperbolic rhetoric to compel people to accept my point of view, but to state what I believe (tentatively, and with a great deal of qualification) to be a fact about what will happen to people as a consequence of certain attitudes and, especially, of certain actions.

Second, the phrase “practitioners of a citizenist meta-ethics” needs unpacking. I didn’t say “believers” in a citizenist meta-ethics because in the scheme of salvation I don’t think that abstract or ideological beliefs matter that much. If a US resident and citizen imbibes from the surrounding environment the notion that one should only care about the welfare of one’s countrymen, but all the people in his town are citizens, and he treats them very well, his indifference to the well-being of people he’s never met and whose lives he doesn’t consciously impact at all will probably have little impact on the state of his soul. If people actually meet foreigners, or consciously do things that affect them, and ignore the foreigners’ well-being, that’s where the danger lies.

Third, there is a difference between citizenism as a personal meta-ethics and citizenism as a political meta-ethics. Sorry for the jargon. What I mean is that there’s a difference between saying (a) “I only care about Americans” and (b) saying “The government should only care about Americans,” and while (a) is definitely un-Christian, (b) might not be. Someone who believed the US government should help Americans and put near-zero weight on foreigners’ interests, but who thought Americans as individuals are obligated to be generous to foreigners as well, and who is personally very generous, would probably not imperil her soul much by her political attitude, even if she is mistaken.

Jesus taught a gospel of universal love, and as Christians we are told to conform to His will. Only thus can we be saved. The stuff we are made of is corrupt, impermanent, transient, poisoned by sin. He has become one of us and (this is a mystery) given us His own self as a substitute for our own fallen and dying selves. We must, ultimately, if we are not to perish, live up to that, and give ourselves completely to love without reservation or limit, for only then will we be able to rise to accept the gift of eternal life. Otherwise we are doomed to decay and disintegration. But let me turn to the Bible, and in particular to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, to make this clearer: Continue reading “Christianity vs. citizenism” »

The citizenist case for open borders

The term “citizenism” is not exactly a household word, but it seems to be becoming more current, at least among the EconLog/Open Borders circle of discussants. Good! I am certainly no citizenist myself. In fact, for purposes of the present post, I’d rather not admit what my attitude to citizenism as a meta-ethics is, because it would set quite the wrong tone. However, I feel I have to mention it in passing, because if I were to write a post on citizenism without mentioning it, I might seem to convey, implicitly, an attitude of moral tolerance for what ought not to be morally tolerated. So I’ll say it: I believe, for the record, that a thorough-going, principled citizenism is appallingly wicked, and diametrically opposed to Christianity, and that practitioners of a citizenist meta-ethics are in danger of hellfire. You see why, if I’m right, I felt the need to warn you. But never mind, forget about that. It’s not the topic of this post. Establishing the term ‘citizenism’ (a) promotes clear thinking, (b) may be useful in provoking some people to think ‘That can’t be right!’ and (c) can serve as a platform from which to advocate open borders! For what I realized is that, without being a citizenist myself, I’ve been making the citizenist case for open borders for years.

But let me back up. Continue reading “The citizenist case for open borders” »