Thursday, 16 February 2017

Are natural borders moral?

Nothing seems more polarising than nationalism. Borders are walls – according to a certain section of people who say “we” when they really mean “the government.” Borders serve only to punish people for the GPS coordinates of their birth.

Then again, the new US president and half of Europe’s new “populist” politicians don’t think borders are so bad. What’s the point of natural borders anyway?

Apparently there’s no essential moral distinction between national border controls and apartheid. Both assign an arbitrary classification to an innocent new-born baby. The grand idea of apartheid was that two separate nations, in the Latin sense of the word, could live under one government in one part of the Earth's surface, participating in the same labour market and all that fine stuff.

Since apartheid no longer exists, it's hard to call it a success. Perhaps if the Afrikaners and Rhodesians had put some fences between themselves and their hereditary enemies, they wouldn't have had to flee their homes and countries. (Which they stole, of course, from the noble savage. I can't think of anywhere else that might have happened.)

David Hume had a few things to say about borders, and he’s is one of the “we” folk’s Enlightenment heroes. Perhaps they appreciate his morality on empiricism and scepticism, but was he fundamentally wrong on borders?

“The very presence of people speaking other languages in public threatens our culture, the best culture. And mixture of cultures and genes threatens to lead our people, the best people, to extinction.”

Actually, it's much simpler than that: the presence of Mexicans in the US democratic electoral system tends to turn that political system into the Mexican political system, the government into the Mexican government and the country into Mexico.

These people seriously believe the difference between the US and Mexico or Syria and Sweden is a function of climate, geology, electoral laws or in fact anything but demographic disparities. Maybe there’s some magical force – the public school system, perhaps – which transforms the children of immigrants into Norman Rockwell characters? What "empirical basis" reinforces this belief?

On one hand, a recent Pew report shows more Mexicans leaving the US than ever before, but the same foundation also found 34% of Mexicans say they'd move north if they could. And that's just Mexico. It happens to be next door to the US. The Pew Center didn't ask, say, Nigerians. Presumably a different foundation is responsible for them.

Assuming those who hate borders also believe in democracy, it strikes me that importing vast breeding colonies of foreigners so those people can keep winning elections makes any questions about Mr Trump’s Hitler impersonation or voting machines rather silly. I just don't get it. But I have trouble understanding why people believe in democracy in the first place.

Progressivism would not exist in anything like its present form if not for the US Immigration Act of 1965. The last Democratic president to win the white vote was LBJ. I'm not sure if one of their beloved Enlightenment thinkers is Machiavelli, but a touch of old Niccolo and a little less Jean-Jacques Rousseau might add some cogency to these anti-border moralistic musings.

Maybe they’re not for the single borderless world, at least not today, but perhaps in 2038. My first concern is the physical security of myself and my family. My second concern is the desire not to live in a Third World slum. I'm not sure what my third concern is, but I suspect Voltaire, Hume and Smith would share it.

The thing about cultural hegemony is that someone always has it. Transnational progressivism is a culture, too. It's a set of values, beliefs and perspectives and it certainly can't exactly be described as tolerant of contradictions. What culture is?

What I find most interesting is the extremely rarefied moral tone. Again, very Puritan. Humean oughts can no more be proved wrong than right. But surely the only purpose of government is to create a safe, pleasant and open society in which ordinary people can live ordinary civilised lives.

I think open borders could work perfectly well in the absence of democracy. The existence of ancien-regime France, cradle of many Enlightenment reveries, shows how vast disparities in prosperity and civilisation can exist within a single country.

Any sudden influx of foreigners can cause profound discombobulation, and a sovereign state should at least be able to secure its cities and clear them of militias. Just a small request for our overlords. Do us this little favour and we'll let the “we” people get right back to the apparent vital moral imperative of invading and inviting the world.

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