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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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