Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

Eternal Vigilance: A Response to Professor Bryan Caplan

Open Borders note: With the exception of the link to Caplan’s post being responded to, all other links have been added by Open Borders staff to ease research, and not at the behest of the author.

Author’s Note: While my original agreement with the staff at Open Borders was to write a single blog post, a recent post from Professor Bryan Caplan at the Library of Economics and Liberty caught my eye as being directly relevant to our discussion. I still intend to honor my one-week agreement, but the Open Borders staff has generously allowed me to post a short response to Professor Caplan here.

In response to your post, Professor Caplan: There is a reason that immigration restriction is fundamentally different than the other faux “policies” you list in your post. That fundamental difference is that the freedom to teach and learn how you wish, reproduce as you wish, speak and vote how you wish are all liberties of a particular group, and restricting who enters that group is the only way to preserve those liberties in the long term.

I am not swayed by the concepts of “natural rights.” They are a fine moral construct for philosophical debates, but when it comes to the world in which we live, great individuals had to sacrifice tremendously to secure those liberties from those who would trample them, whether or not they’re your natural rights. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. I am not so alarmist as to think that open borders today would lead to disaster tomorrow, or even ten years from now. But if I want my grandchildren to grow up in a nation where they have the freedom to speak, vote, reproduce, teach, learn, and live their lives as they wish, then the nation must be preserved.

If everyone in the world wanted freedom and liberty as badly as the early Americans did, then the whole world would now have governments very similar to America’s. That is not the case. People want prosperity, but the vast majority of people cannot identify the link between freedom and prosperity. They think America is wealthy because of the things they see: land, technology, etc. They don’t recognize that it is our freedom that makes us wealthy. And so they think they can come to America and enjoy all the prosperity, but also use all that wealth to create vaster and vaster government involvement until we are wealthy no more. I don’t think this will happen in ten or maybe even twenty years. But unless it is abated, I think it could happen in one hundred, or even fifty.

The most moral policy of any government is one that creates the most net freedom for its people. If a small freedom must be revoked so that a vastly greater freedom is preserved, then that policy is moral. The Founding Fathers understood this – they did not gain independence from Great Britain and then abolish all government in favor of anarchy. They created a limited government that must (as all governments must), by its very nature, infringe on liberty to some small degree. Their goal was to keep that degree as small as possible while still preserving the greater liberty. Minor restrictions on immigration are no different. I do not advocate closing the borders; I don’t even suggest a set quota. Rather, I suggest strict criteria, such that liberty is preserved.

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