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.