We at Open Borders have devoted lots of posts to critiquing citizenism, so one might suspect that we’d soon hit diminishing returns. But the theory of citizenism, in so far as it is the main normative ethical perspective that most restrictionists use to make their arguments, conceals a lot of assumptions behind a simple framing, and it’s worth picking these apart. In this blog post, I want to concentrate specifically on an argument that Steve Sailer and others have made: the constitutional/social contract origins of citizenism. The idea is that the constitutions and founding documents of the US and other countries explicitly attest that rulers must give primacy to the interests of citizens.
Co-blogger Chris Hendrix already considered some aspects of this in the context of the United States. Being less knowledgeable or curious about the specifics of history, and more interested in the common thread behind arguments across multiple nations, I wish to approach this issue from a different angle. To that end, I’ll quote Steve Sailer from his blog post, where he quotes the Preamble to the US Constitution:
It’s worth noting that the Preamble to the Constitution is rooted much more in my way of thinking than in Bryan’s:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [Emphasis mine]
Sailer is a US-centric citizenist, but citizenists around the world could point to comparable statements in appropriate parts of their nation’s founding documents that affirm something to the effect of the following social contract:
- The people vest authority in the government.
- In return, the government promises to put the interests of the people above its own, i.e., instead of politicians working for their private benefit, they work to serve the citizenry who have vested trust in them.
The theory behind this kind of social contract is that the citizenry are ceding something — giving the government a monopoly on the use of violence — and in exchange, demanding that the government work for the interests of the citizenry. Give up something, get something in return. Sounds reasonable. (There are many objections to social contract theory, but this is not the place to go into them).
What alternative arrangements have historically competed with this “citizenistic” social contract? The divine right of kings is in some ways the polar opposite theory — it says that rulers basically have carte blanche to do what they want, because they derive their authority from God. My reading of the citizenistic social contract is thus that it is a contract that seeks to move away from a divine rights of kings framework to a framework where the rulers are bound by the citizenry. In other words, it is a claim about the mutual responsibilities of citizens and rulers.
Under this reading, then, non-citizens don’t enter the picture at all. Thus, the citizenistic framing of various founding documents across the globe cannot be construed as directly implying Sailer-style citizenism which is about favoring the interests of (current) citizens (and their descendants) relative to non-citizens. These two forms of “citizenism” are not inconsistent, but they are far from equivalent.
The hardcore natural rights argument for migration would be that if, prior to the social contract, the (prospective) citizenry did not have the moral right to restrict migration, then the social contract — whereby the citizenry cede some rights to a government — cannot confer on this government the moral right to restrict migration. If the citizens didn’t have the moral right to restrict migration of non-citizens, how could their government acquire a right to do so through a contract signed between the citizens and the government? Continue reading “Citizens versus non-citizens and citizens versus rulers” »