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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Church of the Left Absolves the Sins of the Celebrity Gropers

"We have received from Divine Providence the supreme favour of being relieved from all error." -Constantine, Letter to the Church of Alexandria, c.330AD

What are the ethical premises, and the correlated psychology, of these leftist lechers, who self-righteously profess fidelity to feminism, yet literally assault and rape women in their spare time?  The same question holds for pedophile priests or evangelical characters - like Roy Moore (allegedly), Jim Bakker, or Jimmy Swaggart - who profess pious devotion to religious precepts which they proceed to violate in the most heinous ways.  My contention is that when one feels morally validated by his internal philosophy, projecting his piety socially through virtue signaling, it serves to create a kind of blanket absolution for his own personal sins.  Now, in the case of a pedophile priest or evangelical, it's obvious where absolution lies - repentance and forgiveness from God.  But where does the atheist progressive go for moral absolution?  Answer: The Church of the Left. 

In a previous post, The Offended Generation, I traced liberal Dana Milbank's lamentations concerning his generation's lack of a cause "greater than self" in which he writes: "There have been many noble causes in my time — the fight against apartheid, for gay rights and for environmentalism — but none captured my generation or required the sort of sacrifice the civil rights movement did."   This search for the noble cause and "transcendent social struggle" underpins the modern left.  Whether it be any of its political goals from socialized medicine to environmentalism, the belief in the moral superiority of its causes imbues the social justice warriors with a sense of idealism and self-righteousness.  The SJW crusades to fight injustice, not according to the teachings of Jesus, Moses, or reality, but, rather, according to his Marxist political theories which emphasize class, gender and ethnic victimhood, socialist redistribution schemes, and/or environmentalism.   

This sense of righteousness follows not from some objective theory of rational ethics, but  from our culture's dominant, and largely unchallenged religious ethic, that is, self-sacrifice or altruism. This underlying ethic is what unites the secular left with the religious fanatic - the only major difference being the object of the sacrifice.  The religious demand you sacrifice to God while the socialist demands you sacrifice to the state or Mother Earth.  

It is in this sense that post-modern political correctness and its sundry Marxist ethical-political beliefs are a kind of modern religion. It is, therefore, not a coincidence that the progressive movement increasingly resembles primitive religious movements, like those seen today in the Islamic world, or, at one time, in the West before the separation of Church and State.  Note, that within The Church of the Left, there is an ideological orthodoxy passed down from academic tribunals based on authoritative texts, along with excommunication for heresy, and the violent stifling of dissent from outside infidels (such as conservative speakers or critics of Islam).  

For example, in this video, Ashleigh Shackleford asserts, as a matter of fact, that all white people are born as racist, inhuman demons.  To these types, as in the christian concept of Original Sin, denial is itself regarded as an example of the sin.  This leaves only one alternative for the guilty: confession and repentance.  Again, note the increasingly religious tone and behavior, including calls not only for meek confession and repentance, but the denial of free, rational counter-argument and the rooting out and persecution of non-believers.  

While, the above video exemplifies the practice of critical race theory, a racist theory that criticizes focusing on colorblindness and posits that all white people are guilty of an incurable Original Sin - "whiteness," we cannot forget the other, even more original, Original Sin: carbon footprint.  Consider that the hysterical doomsday predictions of the modern environmental movement increasingly resemble the apocalyptic rantings of ancient mystics. Even their method of chastising and proselytizing the non-believers, so-called "climate deniers," has taken on a religious tone.  The late author, Michael Chrichton, once said:
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

(Courtesy of Professor George Reisman, we should add to this list the modern environmentalist version of hell, global warming -which, climate priests clamor, will "literally roast and boil the earth.")

Furthermore, it is essential to the left's religious-political doctrine that man feel existential guilt for his energy sin, so that they can tie his penance directly to particular forms of political control of the energy industry.  Now, in reality, the science of global warming is completely separate from any particular political remedy.  (In fact, if global warming were shown to be an imminent threat, I would agree with Reisman, that it is that much more important to maintain a free market, in order to allow humans to efficiently adapt (as opposed to central planning which always fails) and to create the greatest possible industrial and technological base to combat the effects.)  But, they have succeeded in inexorably linking the outcome of the science with their particular political remedy, i.e., actual global warming = throttling fossil fuels along with industrial progress and the economy.  Only a sense of existential "planetary level" guilt could cause man to commit economic suicide on this scale.     

Sadly, by trumpeting the morality of victimhood and sacrifice, like modern and past religious fanatics,  the modern progressive movement robs individuals of the profound joy and happiness that results from purposeful, productive living accompanied by mutually beneficial voluntary cooperation and trade.  It replaces these values with a  sneering hatred of success, and rather than cultivating a benevolent environment of discovery, productivity, creativity, and entrepreneurship - altruism, as always, creates an environment of guilt, entitlement, and dependency. 

The Church of the Left is a fully organized religion in the same fashion as the Catholic Church or the various branches of other organized religions. It's clerics and followers are comprised from the legions of academics, mainstream news reporters, government lifers, celebrity personalities, and coastal elites.  Like pedophile priests, who believed that God would forgive or that their religious status rendered them beyond good and evil, the members of the Church of the Left believe they too can be absolved of guilt.  They believe that by preaching the Good Word, by donating to the Church (the Democratic Party, environmental organizations, and their various political affiliates), and by haranguing the Deplorables with PSAs, tweets, and Oscar speeches, they too, are beyond good and evil.    

Monday, November 27, 2017

Why Objectivists Really Disagree on Immigration, Part 1

Once upon a time, I believed objectivists were distinguishable from libertarians.  After all, in my own experience, I observed that libertarians often take "liberty" or the "non-aggression principle" as a kind of out-of-context philosophic commandment, whereas objectivism grounds liberty in a philosophical framework in which liberty logically extends from metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics to the political concept of individual rights.   Such a distinction is not just an abstract esoteric debate - there are real consequences.  Peter Schwartz wrote:      
"It’s important to realize that libertarianism endorses not simply a false theory—i.e., a dismissal of the philosophic roots of freedom—but a false practice. The protection of individual rights has two necessary components: a government that refuses to initiate force against its citizens, and a government that willingly uses force to repel any threats—whether domestic or foreign—against those citizens. Libertarians regularly oppose the second, thereby making freedom impossible." [emphasis mine]
And, while it's true that many libertarians do attempt to validate liberty on a more fundamental basis, either because they lack the objectivist framework, or because they still rely on the concept of "liberty" arbitrarily, many end up advocating anarchistic politics, for example, rejecting intellectual property rights or calling for the privatization of police and courts.  But, a major practical divergence is in the area of military defense, where many libertarians uphold a policy of blanket non-interventionism. 

This latter divergence is exemplified by the libertarian position towards Iran and Israel.  While intellectuals at The Ayn Rand Institute have consistently defended Israel as a beacon of freedom in a sea of theocratic dictatorship and condemned Iran as a state sponsor of jihadi terrorism, many libertarians such as Ron Paul, take a more or less neutral position towards Israel, while taking a hands off approach to the Iranian regime.  Several years ago, while objectivists cited concerns about the cultural and political implications of Muslims building a ground zero mosque, many libertarians, like Ron Paul, accused opponents of "racist demagoguery," likening construction of the mosque to the construction of a "soccer field."    

Those who rely only on economic arguments or liberty as a floating abstraction, as it relates to immigration, are committing the same error as Ron Paul and other Libertarians by not considering more fundamental facts and principles related to individual rights. In a recent post, Philosophical Foundations of Immigration in a Free Society, I argued that immigration policy should be seen as a subset of foreign policy as it relates to the national defense.  Seen this way, even putting aside concerns about the modern welfare state, an objective immigration policy can be seen as a necessary function of government with respect to protecting the sovereignty and rights of individuals within a free country.  Of course, if this is true, how much more important is immigration policy in the today's context, where we do have a massive welfare state, democratic elections affected by immigrant voters who skew left, and myriad threats from overseas.
    
That's why, in researching the views of libertarians and objectivists with respect to immigration, I was shocked to find what I regard to be an incredible anomaly.  Many prominent libertarians thinkers, like Hans-Herman Hoppe, whom I quoted in my post and who is quoted extensively here, actually make a strong case for restricted immigration - as do even so-called anarcho-capitalists like Lew Rockwell. Regarding Ludwig Von Mises, Joseph Salerno writes: "Mises did not evaluate immigration in terms of purely economic optima such as maximizing the productivity of human labor, irrespective of the political context. Rather, he assessed the effects of immigration from the viewpoint of the classical liberal regime of private property." On the other hand, many prominent objectivist intellectuals have taken the "open borders" position siding with libertarians like Alex Nowrasteh, and this author.  
    
After some research, I came to believe many libertarians and conservatives take a more classically objectivist approach than objectivists on this issue by considering more fundamental principles related to private property rights of citizens, the concept of sovereignty, along with a whole spectrum of issues related to culture, nationality, and economics.  How is this possible?  Within the scope of this article, I want to focus only on one objectivist intellectual whom I believe, to his credit, has taken the clearest and most detailed open borders position and has thus most influenced the objectivist community.  In a post titled, Immigration, Dr. Harry Binswanger writes that his article "is a defense of a policy of absolutely open immigration, without border patrols, border police, border checks, or passports." Mirroring the libertarian open borders position, Binswanger writes: 
There is no more authority to demand papers at the border than there is for the police to board a city bus and demand papers of everyone on it. A man, citizen or non-citizen, is to be presumed innocent. He does not have to satisfy the government that he is not a criminal, in the absence of any evidence that he is. 
At the nation's borders, instead of "inspection," there should simply be a sign: "Welcome to America."

Despite his own argument, it is not a position with which even Dr. Binswanger appears to agree, as we shall see later.  In reality, when conducting commerce or contemplating immigration policies, not intranationally (on a "city bus"), but between two nations (internationally) that may be allies, enemies, or in between, such as between the U.S. and China, Britain, Canada, Mexico, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, or Somalia, there are other more primary factors that must be considered.

For example, should the government prevent a private company from selling military technology or weapons to North Korea or Iran?  Can a private property owner bring in individuals who carry a deadly virus?  Can a private property owner bring in and house thousands of communists who wish to overthrow the government? Could a private property owner who owns ocean frontage allow an enemy nation to dock its nuclear submarine fleet and board its military personnel? Can private property owners transact with nations under embargo?


Binswanger's argument ignores the more complex context of international borders, which is radically different from the context of movement between local jurisdictions or across state lines, within a free country, where there are long standing constitutional and legal agreements, and where there is a judicial tradition based on the common law.  

Now, in my post, I advocated an immigration policy based on the recognition that the government's primary function is national self-defense and that a community of private citizens and private property owners delegate affairs of state and the retaliatory use of force to the government.  The right of national self-defense is predicated on the concept of sovereignty which is predicated on the principle of individual rights. Binswanger's false equivalence between an international border and an intranational border represents a fundamental denial of the concept of sovereignty.  On this point, Ayn Rand wrote
A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation—a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens—has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense) . . . . 
Such a nation has a right to its sovereignty (derived from the rights of its citizens) and a right to demand that its sovereignty be respected by all other nations.

From these passages and knowing nothing else, I would have expected an objectivist to approach immigration very differently than an arbitrary "liberty as primary" econ-centric libertarian.  Now, while in one article, Binswanger endorsed a policy of "nothing but a welcome sign," confusingly, in this article, he admits that there are indeed potential threats from immigrants that warrant concern. He writes:  
...Entry into the U.S. should ultimately be free for any foreigner, with the exception of criminals, would-be terrorists, and those carrying infectious diseases. (And note: I am defending freedom of entry and residency, not the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship).

So, here he admits there should be a policy that would except "criminals, would-be terrorists and those carrying infectious diseases," however, he does not say how he would determine who is a criminal or would-be terrorist or disease carrier. The important point is that he concedes the principle that it is proper policy for a free country to police it's borders and to have some policy with respect to determining who is a demonstrable threat.  Unfortunately, he contradicts himself again in the following passage: 
To take an actual example, if I want to invite my Norwegian friend Klaus to live in my home, either as a guest or as a paying tenant, what right does our government have to stop Klaus and me? To be a Norwegian is not to be a criminal. And if some American business wants to hire Klaus, what right does our government have to interfere?

But what if Klaus is a criminal, or a would-be terrorist, or has an infectious disease?  How would we know? Furthermore, what burdens does Klaus's entry place on the rest of the private property owners, particularly, in today's context?  Of course, his own theory implies that Klaus would have to undergo some sort of border check before being allowed into the country. After all, Binswanger concedes:
....a person with an infectious disease, such as smallpox, threatens with serious physical harm those with whom he comes into proximity. Unlike the criminal, he may not intend to do damage, but the threat of physical harm is clear, present, and objectively demonstrable. To protect the lives of Americans, he may be kept out or quarantined until he is no longer a threat.

So would his "Welcome to America" sign perform a small-pox check or do a background check?  He doesn't say, but presumably, such a check would need to be executed by a border agent at a border check - the very authority he excluded when he claimed that his article was "a defense of a policy of absolutely open immigration, without border patrols, border police, border checks, or passports."  

Since it appears that Binswanger himself does not even advocate his own definition of open immigration, what exactly is open immigration?  I have yet to hear a clear answer, and it leads us to ask, "what the hell is this argument over?"  Well, Binswanger attempts to answer just this question.  In his 2015 post, Why Objectivists Disagree on immigration, he writes:  
Well, they [Objectivists] really don’t. I think we all agree (certainly Leonard Peikoff does) that in a laissez-faire world, there’d be open immigration. The disagreements arise because we are light-years away from that world
So, he asserts that "we all agree" and that the real problem is that we are "light-years away" from such ideal conditions when we can have this fuzzy thing he calls "open immigration" (where we have nothing but welcome signs but somehow can ascertain disease carriers).   In a telling passage, Binswanger claims that the current state of affairs deprives us of the use of principles: 
But philosophy deals in principles.That’s why there are continuing arguments about immigration among those who accept the Objectivist philosophy. 
Deprived of the guidance of principles, the issue then becomes one of concrete facts. 
And since we cannot use principles, he writes:  
"People can certainly differ on these factual issues, and raw, statistical (!) facts are all we have left when we can’t appeal to principles, because the principled path is not “politically realistic.”
I could not disagree more with this argument.  First, his assertion that "we all agree," i.e., that in the case of some fantasy laissez-faire system we would all advocate open immigration, is not true.  If open immigration means a border-less nation with no controls (and, again, I am not even sure it does), I would absolutely oppose such a system under any circumstances.  To not police our own borders, in any context, is a total abdication of the government's defense function!  

Although he appears to believe that we can crush and eliminate Islam as an existential threat, the fact is that there will always be a threat from someone in the future.  Would we also disband the police and the courts in a future laissez-faire world under the presumption that criminals will cease to exist, and humans will no longer need to resolve disputes?  As I said in my post: 
The idea that we can eliminate the threat by crushing our enemies overseas and therefore allow virtually anyone to subsequently enter the country does not recognize the nature of reality.  The fact is that there are always bad guys out there, and the government's job is to protect its citizens from them.  Simply put, there will never be a time when the government can cease to police its own border....  
Furthermore, to advocate defeating our enemies abroad based on rational foreign policy concerns, but not concerning ourselves with potential enemies crossing our own border is a wild contradiction.  Both aspects of defense are crucial and complementary.  

If the government's proper foreign policy endeavors to identify and eliminate existential threats from overseas by procuring intelligence and launching attacks against enemy states, why wouldn't its foreign policy seek to identify existential threats from those on its border seeking to enter the country?  Why wouldn't we apply at least as much scrutiny if not more to those entering the country? If it's true that we empower the government to repel a direct invasion force that would seek to undermine and overthrow our system of government, why would it ever be considered advisable to allow an indirect invasion to occur through legal or illegal immigration of potentially dangerous people?        

Second, eschewing principles in favor of brute empiricism is an example of the rationalism vs empiricism false alternative.   He seems to almost lament being limited to facts, where he is "deprived of the guidance of principles."  But, we should never start with principles and then abandon them once they don't fit the factual situation.  Rather, we derive principles from observable facts.  

For example, in my post, I discuss the factual nature of cognition - that it takes time, and some amount of political freedom, to learn and integrate knowledge.  I discuss the fact that most people accept their culture without consideration either because they have limited freedom, education, and/or aptitude - the very reason we have intellectual heroes.  I discuss the relevance of culture to immigration policy and the legal concept of citizenship.  I recognize the fact that people from around the world are not "atomistic" economic maximizers but share different ancestry, language, and culture and form bonds to their family and community due to these facts.  I recognize that our country recognizes naturalization as a vehicle to implement real citizenship and the fact that our government's laws can and should only apply to our citizens.  I recognize the fact that the government must perform a self-defense function in order to protect a nation of private citizens and property owners from an international invasion while protecting a citizen's right to conduct business with non-threats.  I point to other times in history where these principles have been applied and recognize the contextual nature of these immigration (or any defense) policies as threats emerge around the world vis-a-vis our own actual economic and political situation.  And so on.    

In other words, one must start with observable facts and induce principles by integrating those facts with preexisting knowledge.  Given the open-ended nature of concepts, this is precisely how we gain knowledge.  New facts refine our concepts and enhance our knowledge.  Dealing with ideal or simple cases is a method for understanding, illustrating or applying a principle - not for dispensing with reality.  Principles must always leave room for the unknown.     

Consequently, Binswanger's implication - that we should start with some out-of-context rationalistic conception of "liberty" as an ideal, treating humans as disembodied atomistic minds of equal ability, but throw it out, because reality doesn't resemble the rationalistic fantasy, and, therefore, confine ourselves to statistical and raw empirical arguments, is ludicrous.  Again, this approach is an instance of the rationalism vs. empiricism false alternative.

This rationalistic approach can again be seen in other articles, where Binswanger, as well as other libertarians, conflate intranational borders with international borders in the context of economic arguments.   With respect to immigration, many libertarian's cite the effect of a growing population on the division of labor, believing that a kind of anarchistic open borders immigration policy squares with their concept of "liberty" while relying on the utilitarian argument that such a policy will benefit all economically.  In this regard, Binswanger tells us that "America is a vastly underpopulated country."  By what standard does he make such a claim? He writes, "our population density is less than one-third of France's," which, by implication, he regards as some universal standard. But he goes on:  
You say that hordes of immigrants would come to overcrowd America? Okay, take a really extreme scenario. Imagine that half of the people on the planet moved here. That would mean an unthinkable eleven-fold increase in our population—from 300 million to 3.3 billion people. The result? America would be a bit less densely populated than England. England has 384 people/sq.km; vs. 360 people/sq. km. if our population multiplied 11-fold.
To those who question the value of having our nation increase in population by 11-fold, he argues: 
Contrary to widespread belief, high population density is a value not a disvalue. High population density intensifies the division of labor, which makes possible a wider variety of jobs and specialized consumer products. For instance, in Manhattan, there is a "doll hospital"—a store specializing in the repair of children's dolls. Such a specialized, niche business requires a high population density in order to have a market. Try finding a doll hospital in Poughkeepsie. In Manhattan, one can find a job as a "Secret Shopper" (a job actually listed on Craig's List). Not so in Paducah.
So here Binswanger relies on a kind of utilitarian argument that a growing population will benefit all because it will lead to a greater division of labor which leads to a greater variety of products such as "doll hospitals" and "secret shopper" jobs.  Okay, but why is this kind of "economic optima" necessarily the good?  People are not robots.  What about those who wish to live in rural towns near to family and to those who speak the same language and share the same values?  If we are now to base our policy not on individual rights, but rather utilitarianism, why couldn't the small towners just as easily make the argument that their lives will suffer as a result of increased density (despite having more doll hospitals)?  

He seems to then try and answer this by claiming that all people want to live near a lot of people, because real estate prices.  He writes: 
People want to live near other people, in cities. One-seventh of England's population lives in London. If population density is a bad thing, why are Manhattan real-estate prices so high? People are willing to pay a premium in order to live in a densely populated area. And even within that area, the more "crowded" the more in demand: compare prices for apartments in mid-town Manhattan with prices for apartments on the less crowded northern tip of the island.
Putting aside the fallacy of his argument allegedly proving that "people want to live near other people" (houses on the ocean in Long Island and Malibu and in places with mountain views also sell for tens of millions), all of these claims are secondary considerations.  That is absolutely not the primary context or facts to consider in immigration policy.  

Obviously, two immigrants in a nation of 300 million people could have very little effect on the host country, but what if 50 or 100 million immigrants from India or China sought to land in America?  Numbers or size do matter, and, unlike virtually any other foreign policy consideration, the act of allowing mass numbers of foreign nationals into a country of private property owners can irrevocably change the very institutions of government.  As Ralph Raico wrote: "Free immigration would appear to be in a different category from other policy decisions, in that its consequences permanently and radically alter the very composition of the democratic political body that makes those decisions." The numbers are a primary factor in determining the difference between immigration and invasion.

Not only are large groups of immigrants more likely to form their own community rather than assimilate due to cultural and language factors, they are an electoral (and physical) threat to overthrow existing institutions.  Imagine if millions of immigrants from a hostile country essentially took over a city, state, or region with the intention of changing the form of government or affecting national policy or attacking the current residents?  Who would stop them under Binswanger's open immigration plan? 

We can observe that third world refugees, like those from Somalia or the Middle East, who seek any escape from death defying conditions, may not all understand nor appreciate western customs of law, individualism, and free markets (which, in reality, takes time, education, and experience).  They are not likely to assimilate quickly and they often bring cultural values hostile to western civilization, such as the espousal of Sharia law - the very cultural values that have created the conditions leading to their desire to escape.  Again, would a handful of these immigrants be an enormous problem? No, but thousands or tens of thousands or millions immediately put into a region would, and this is just the kind of practical consideration that a proper foreign policy or immigration policy should consider, and it's precisely the context dropped by Binswanger when he quotes population density statistics without taking into consideration the actual facts.           

But, perhaps, the most egregious claim in his writings is the following:   
In the absence of specific evidence against him, nothing can justify subjecting an immigrant to coercive interference.  
I'm very afraid that the actual reason for limiting immigration is xenophobia, which is simply a polite word for racial bigotry. 
The denial of rights to non-citizens is despicable, an affront to moral principles as such. We have erected a vicious and hypocritical double standard: we locals grant ourselves a right to violate the rights of outsiders.
First, if its true that we cannot deny rights to non-citizens, should we grant those same rights to foreign nationals before launching an attack on an enemy country?  Would we interview each foreign national and grant them a jury trial and the various constitutional protections specified by the Bill of Rights before the attack?  If you say, "war is different" then you are supporting my argument - foreign policy and the relationship of our nation to foreign nations is a different legal context.  As I wrote in my post: "Individuals possess certain inalienable rights or "natural rights," but these are distinct from civil rights defined by the Constitution which are applicable only to citizens of the United States.  There is no obligation under the Constitution to protect the civil rights of non-citizens.  The policies by which our country deals with foreign nationals is and should be reasonable and a matter of law (not fiat), but distinguishing natural rights from the civil rights of citizens is an important legal distinction." 

But, more importantly, in yet another instance of rationalism, Binswanger appears to not even contemplate, for a second, that one could validly criticize his application of principles.  Consequently, he concludes, the only possible objection would be on the basis of a kind of mental disorder - xenophobia.  

Now, the concept of "phobia" connotes an irrational fear.  But, the fear of being consumed by a society of superstitious, witch burning fascists is not an irrational fear - which should not come as a shock to any objectivist.  Such societies have existed and exist today. History is filled with tales of lost civilizations, and mass migration today in Europe should be an ominous warning.  Objectively upholding the values of reason, individualism, and political freedom and acting to protect oneself against those who advocate superstition, collectivism, and dictatorship is neither an instance of racism nor xenophobia - it is their antidote.  Protecting the rights of the owners of our country from objective threats is the function of our government. 

More significantly, by equating dissent with irrationality, Binswanger is implicitly shutting down his opposition by smearing opponents as bigots.  "Disagree? Well then, you are irrational."  Such an approach by a leading intellectual could only fuel vitriolic attacks on dissenters and serve to shut down debate over a complex political and legal application of Objectivism.  This has actually happened.    

Interestingly, while Binswanger accuses his opponents of racial bigotry, i.e., generalizing about the characteristics of foreigners, he feels perfectly open to engage in his own form of positive bigotry when he writes: 
Immigrants are the kind of people who refresh the American spirit. They are ambitious, courageous, and value freedom. They come here, often with no money and not even speaking the language, to seek a better life for themselves and their children.
Really, is this true of all immigrants? It certainly is not.  Now, in my post, I argue for making generalizations with respect to immigration policy, given the constraint of time and resources and the differing legal context with respect to making foreign policy judgments.  I argue that we should not grant a presumption of innocence, but rather the onus falls on the immigrant and/or his sponsors to abide by an objective vetting policy.  In other words, we should not make broad generalizations, either positive or negative, about immigrants per se as Binswanger does here, e.g., "all immigrants are bad or good."  In the absence of evidence regarding an individual, there can be legitimate bases for generalizations, as I outline in my post.      

In conclusion, I should note that my goal in this article was not to perform a line by line critique of Dr. Binswanger's ideas - nor is it to put forth my own view, which I did at length in my linked post - a post that can be argued and debated.  My point is that his fundamental approach is flawed, with predictable and contradictory results,  that even a cursory analysis and comparison to much better authors on immigration clearly exposes.  The body of work put forward by Binswanger and other fellow travelers is hardly the grounds for his supporters to launch sanctimonious attacks and level "racism" smears towards dissenters.  

Objectivists disagree on immigration because their intellectual leaders have left them with a false alternative, between rationalism and empiricism, that fails to properly address the core facts and questions surrounding this important and complex issue.  I hope by shedding light on even a portion of these flaws, it can lead to a more informed and civil debate and lead to better scholarship in this area and others.   

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Progressive Empathy Reversal Trick

In Ben Shapiro’s demolition of Kimmel’s gun rant, he makes a great point that can be extrapolated. He observes that Kimmel believes that if you disagree with his anti-gun policy (which appears to consist of “do something”) you are not just mistaken, but an immoral, unfeeling, monster indifferent to human suffering. In other words, Kimmel appeals to emotion, rather than facts and evidence, and declares any challenge to be essentially a form of evil. In other words, if you disagree with Kimmel, you are going to hell - there is no possibility of a reasonable counter argument.
The logic is “we are good, we care, and want do something, therefore government action of some kind is warranted” - which is a non sequitur.  (They could just as easily say "we are good, we care, and want to do something, therefore, we should all eat ham sandwiches.")  More importantly, if you oppose their particular proposed governmental action, they reverse their flawed logic and conclude that you do not care and are therefore evil.
Shapiro is right to conclude we cannot have civil discourse under this view - it’s a view that leads to civil war.
The more general point is that this view is endemic to the left. If you disagree with socialized medicine, it can’t be because you believe in individual rights, voluntary trade, or think private medicine is better for everyone - you must be an immoral devil who relishes seeing the elderly and orphans die in the streets. If you oppose welfare schemes, it can’t be because you believe in an individual's right to keep his earnings or believe that dependency on government is devastating to the poor in the long run - it must be because you don’t care about the poor or are a racist hater of minorities.
This is why economic arguments don’t work on them. They conflate empathy with government action. This psychology is so deeply ingrained that the details, the facts, the evidence are irrelevant to them.

Here is another exchange that is so typical of what I have seen recently. The author being interviewed wrote a scathing editorial calling for someone to do something (something!) about guns. And what should we do? He literally has no idea. When pressed over and over by Tucker, he offers no plan, no specific concrete ideas on what to actually do. Yet, he is outraged and anyone who disagrees with his non-plan is an evil, cowardly, despicable, well you get the idea.
As always with liberals, the intention is enough. Simply believing in doing something, anything that involves legislation X, or law Y, or regulation Z is paramount. The specifics, the relationship to rights, and the unintended consequences be damned.
They apply this approach to every issue. Someone doesn't have health care insurance? No need to look at why a particular individual doesn't have insurance - no need to study how current policy has affected the marketplace and made it more expensive or lower quality - no need to look at the unintended consequences of any new policy. The fact is that "someone doesn't have health care so we ("we" meaning someone else besides them) must provide it (by force if necessary, and it's always necessary)." Someone doesn't have a house - "give them housing!" Someone doesn't make enough money - "raise the wage!" Someone used a gun to murder - "ban the gun!" Someone drove a car into pedestrians - "ban the ....oh, even we're not that stupid" - next thing!...

The only solution is to realize that morality consists of rational self-interest, not self-sacrifice, and to show that consistently applying individual rights is not only practical in terms of the benefits of free market capitalism, but the right or moral thing to do.     

Monday, November 6, 2017

Onkar Ghate Loses the Plot

Recently, Onkar Ghate of ARI wrote an article titled "The Anti-Intellectuality of Donald Trump: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump."  Despite being unwilling to "speak for the dead," Ghate goes on to speak for the dead, and professes to know what Rand would have thought. He writes :
My wager is that were Ayn Rand alive today, she would condemn the whole Trump phenomenon. Far from seeing him or his administration’s actions as even partially influenced by her ideas, she would see Donald Trump as the kind of political figure whose rise she had foreseen and warned us against.
And despite admitting that she surprised her followers (as geniuses tend to do continually, although that irony seems lost on him) by not endorsing Reagan shortly before her death, as an "expert on Ayn Rand’s philosophy," he feels qualified to speak for her.  Regarding Trump, he claims:
Trump’s salient characteristic as a political figure is anti-intellectuality. Because Rand saw this mentality as on the rise (she called it the anti-conceptual mentality), she had a lot to say about it, and it’s illuminating how much of it fits Trump.
"To be an intellectual," he writes, "is a demanding responsibility. To be intellectual requires real independence of judgment and enduring honesty and integrity." And in case any of us were considering likening Trump to the Founding Fathers, he notes, "It’s not just that Trump lacks these virtues; in comparison to, say, Jefferson, Washington or Madison, most of today’s politicians do. It’s that Trump projects disdain for these virtues."

In fact, we're told, Trump really didn't care about "draining the swamp."  This was merely a last-minute phrase, a "tool of manipulation" that he opportunistically tried and when he observed it to work, kept it in his diabolical act.  Imagine, a politician testing a talking point on his base! (The implication is that deep down, he really loves all the dirty politicos in DC.)

So, what's the upshot of all of this?  Ghate tells us that when the anti-intellectual mind replaces fidelity to truth with "loyalty to the group," it leads to "a profound tribalism" which, in turn, leads towards "authoritarianism and dictatorship."

So, I think I get it.  Trump is an amoral pragmatist with a penchant for lying.  His anti-conceptual mind demands loyalty to "Him" and this represents an ominous trend towards "authoritarianism and dictatorship." Evidently, Ghate tells us, we are nearing the stage where "pseudo-intellectuals will eventually be replaced by their progeny: people who more openly dispense with the intellect and who are more explicitly boorish, brutish and tribal, i.e., by anti-intellectual mentalities."  In this regard, Trump is a Cuffy Meigs type character, but instead of a "gun in one pocket and a rabbit's foot in the other," Trump "carries the nuclear codes in one pocket and Infowars in the other."

There are several ways in which Ghate, and by extension, ARI, is losing the plot. I will put aside whether Ghate, or anyone, is qualified to speak for Ayn Rand (which, with respect to the concrete complexities of politics, I hold is preposterous on its face), and focus on the particular issues. 

First, note that virtually any politician today could be subjected to an isolated dissection of their philosophic and moral pathology.  Imagine such an analysis of Hillary Clinton (which might require volumes), Bush, Bernie Sanders, or Joseph Biden?  They are all the progeny of a collapsing culture and a bankrupt post-modern intellectual climate.  However, focusing on Trump's particular philosophical pathology outside of the larger political and cultural context is pure rationalism.  Yes, maybe he is anti-intellectual (although, I think he is more unintellectual), but that might be ok, for example, if his opponent is a cunning philosophical evil genius bent on overthrowing America.

Second, what is the largest threat facing defenders of individualism today?  The biggest threat is post-modern philosophic trends that are threatening free speech, violently stifling dissent, whitewashing the threat of Islamism, purging western culture from the university curriculum, causing the balkanization of Americans into racial and victim groups, justifying wanton violence towards law enforcement, and breaking down the rule of law - not to mention the left's various political programs of environmentalism, socialized medicine, and confiscatory taxation.   

The popularity of Trump is in large part an American backlash to this threat.  Would it be nice to have an articulate, reasoned, opponent of these trends?  Maybe or maybe not.  Trump's crudeness and unwillingness to apologize to the PC police is exactly what resonated with ordinary Americans fed up with, not just the PC left, but milquetoast Republicans who kowtow to these trends at every available opportunity.  Trump's macho demeanor is anathema to many, but it is a projection of a certain American sensibility - a sense of confidence and moral certainty.  A cowboy wouldn't win the Yale debate club, but he would project confidence, swagger, and ability - important qualities in an executive that most Americans admire.

As Americans watched Dallas cops get gunned down in the street, watched Antifa thugs beat up conservatives on college campuses, and witnessed more and more victims of yet more Muslim terror attacks, all we heard from the leftist shills in the mainstream media was PC propaganda that "Islamophobia" or "white privilege" is really what we must fear!  In an age of "Blame America First," Trump's unabashed "America First" mantra is the first time in a generation or more that a politician has expressed this sentiment.  And, even if this is the product of an "anti-intellectual boor," he means it - and most Americans love it. 

In stark contrast to Trump, who were the other choices?  Were the candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and John Galt?  Did I miss something?

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt megalomaniac who has spent her life crushing her opposition in a ruthless quest for political power.  As we have now found out, she spent her years under Obama as Secretary of State selling out American foreign policy for cash.  As we have found out since, her tentacles stretched not only into the DNC (which threw the primary for her), the media (which openly campaigned for her), but to the former Attorney General, the FBI Director, and elements of our intelligence agencies who now regularly leak damaging items about Trump.

She was not pursued for brazen obstruction of justice when she and her cronies deleted tens of thousands of emails, while others rot in prison for 1/100 of an offense.  FBI Director Comey went on national television to cite a litany of obstruction violations under federal law, only to tell us that he would not seek prosecution.  Of course, that is not his call, it is the call of the justice department and attorney general, but, oh wait, AG Lynch had already recused herself due to a mysterious meeting with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac.  This is the stuff of Banana Republics!  If she had won, perhaps Clinton would have worn epaulettes, ceremonial medals, and smoked a pipe at her inauguration.         

Where was Ghate's philosophical analysis of this creature?   

I would have voted for virtually any of her opponents, simply to rid the federal government, as much as possible, of the Clinton machine's cronies and allies, her cabinet heads, her justice department, her FBI, her intelligence agencies and state department, to say nothing of her economic and tax advisors.  In the same way, I'd like to see Chicago shorn of the Democratic machine regardless of what replaces it for a few years. 

Meanwhile, under Trump, we have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice, which is to say we avoided a liberal justice, we have some cabinet agency heads that are dismantling their agencies, notably the EPA and the Department of Education and we are getting non-Hillary types at all levels of his administration.  Due to Trump's and the Republican's inability to think or act in principle, we have not had a repeal of Obamacare, but we don't have full socialized medicine yet.  Also, they are not even discussing cutting back government spending, which is horrible, but no worse than what would have happened under Clinton.  I expect the political achievements of Trump to be minimal, but not devastating.     

More important than policy matters right now, Trump's election has brought to the surface clear fronts in a broader cultural war between PC left progressives and Americans - something that would never have happened as starkly under a Clinton presidency.

The left and the media have been totally exposed.  Liberal democrats and the left are at war.  The left, on full tilt over Trump's election, have exposed themselves as fully anti-American fascists, willing even to shout down speeches given by the ACLU!  If it's not clear that the mainstream media is openly biased, then it never will be.  The main news networks and large metro newspapers openly campaign against Trump and the Republicans on a daily basis in the most brazen way.  The major social media companies openly worked with the Hillary campaign, and now are openly trying to stifle right wing social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others.   

The PC left is an authoritarian movement that seeks to purge Western civilization in favor of Marxism and identity politics.  This is the biggest danger advocates of free markets and civil liberties face right now.  America does need clear, articulate defenders of Western civilization and western values of reason, individual rights, and capitalism.  Some of those people have been emboldened by the left's hostile antics, and are now winning in the marketplace of ideas.  People like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Gad Saad (none huge fans of Trump), and many others have emerged as articulate defenders of free speech and western civilization on campus.

Objectivist intellectuals need to stop rationalistically attacking Trump for not being the Thomas Jefferson of politics.  No one is.  He is flawed.  He is many of things Ghate accuses him of being.  We know!  Call him out for bad policies or bad ideas, but, also, place his presidency in the broader context of the intellectual battle we are waging and the alternatives we actually face in the here and now.  More importantly, they should focus their attacks on the real enemies of civilization.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Philosophical Foundations of Immigration in a Free Society

Introduction
In 2015, I wrote a short post titled Principles of Immigration in a Free Society geared towards fellow Objectivists and libertarians who have been vehemently debating this issue. I argued that, even in a free society with a rights respecting government, immigration restrictions are perfectly appropriate and necessary as part of the government's national defense function.  Given this, it is even more critical to have restrictive policies today in the context of the threat of Islam, mass migrations from civil wars, our own mixed economy that subsidizes immigrants, and the reality of democratic elections within a nation on the brink where immigrants tend to favor the left (which regards immigrants as an important voting bloc to accomplish their civilization destroying political agenda).

Since that time, the immigration debate has exposed even deeper fundamental philosophical problems that need to be understood and resolved.  If we are to determine the government's proper role regarding immigration, it is important to trace these root philosophic issues that ultimately bear directly on policy. The following is an attempt to briefly categorize and analyze some of these underlying topics and to reiterate some ideas from the original post. 

Rationality as a Potential
It seems that many Objectivists, in the name of opposing collectivism and upholding individualism, regard the individual to be, in some sense, impervious to factors such as biology, family, culture, etc. as if people from anywhere in the world are equally as likely to value reason and freedom as anyone else.  It is as if acknowledging that such external factors influence people is an implicit endorsement of collectivism.  This is a fallacy.

Collectivism is the idea that you are determined by your membership in a group, i.e., that your fate is sealed by your class, the geography of your birth, or some factor beyond your control.  Individualism holds that each person possesses free will and reason and thus can make independent judgments.  However, rationality is not automatic - it is a potential.  People are influenced, by a myriad of complex factors including their biology, their family, and the culture around them, where culture is defined as the dominant ideas and customs prevailing in each country or geographical area. 

Could a boy growing up in a communist dictatorship or an Islamist theocracy independently conclude that dictatorship is evil and that he is living in a hell hole?  Yes, it is possible, but it would take a heroic level of intellectual ability and fortitude to overcome the influence of his conditions not to mention a practical means to hear and learn better, albeit outlawed, ideas. That is precisely why we revere Ayn Rand, who amazingly recognized the evils of Bolshevism at a young age and could escape to the west.  It is why we marvel at Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others who heroically maintain fidelity to their independent judgment against the influence of their family, their culture, their government, and even physical torture.

This is not a denial of the potential of individualism, it is a statement of fact regarding the difficulty of practicing rationality and why we regard it as a virtue.  Moreover, it is an affirmation of the nature of human cognition.  It takes time and effort to learn and integrate new knowledge.  Broad ideas about the nature of man, reason, individual rights, the proper role of government, etc. are not self-evident.  They are complex concepts developed over hundreds of years, the results of which are woven into the fabric of our culture through education, law, custom, language, art and so on.  

These facts are part of the very basis for why we regard political freedom as necessary to the proper life of the individual, and why it is important to educate young people to value and uphold reason and individualism from an early age. 

The Origin of Culture and Nationalism 
Ayn Rand defined culture as follows: "A nation’s culture is the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men, which their fellow-citizens have accepted in whole or in part, and which have influenced the nation’s way of life. Since a culture is a complex battleground of different ideas and influences, to speak of a “culture” is to speak only of the dominant ideas, always allowing for the existence of dissenters and exceptions."

When certain ideas or customs are dominant in a society, it's an observable fact that most accept these traditions uncritically (or there would not be different cultures).  If kids are born in an Islamic culture to Islamic parents and sent to Islamic schools from a young age, how many would have the ability and the means, much less the political freedom, to question or challenge the premises of Islam or the basis for religion?  Dictatorships and theocracies limit travel and restrict education and media to official state dogma precisely to violently inculcate the population, i.e., to preserve the culture.  

On the other hand, individuals born to a rights respecting culture tend to voluntarily appreciate the laws and customs of their nation because they can objectively evaluate the benefits of living in a free and prosperous society.  Freedom of travel in these areas allows individuals to both appreciate their own culture and to learn from or adopt the idea or customs of others.       

While the explicit recognition of cultural value is significant, I would argue that there are even deeper bonds that form and attach individuals to their own culture and form the basis of nationalism. In Joseph Salerno's article, "Mises on Nationalism, the Right of Self-Determination, and the Problem of Immigration," he writes:
It should be noted here that, in contrast to many modern libertarians who view individuals as atomistic beings who lack emotional affinities and spiritual bonds with selected fellow humans, Mises affirms the reality of the nation as “an organic entity.” For Mises the nation comprises humans who perceive and act toward one another in a way that separates them from other groups of people based on the meaning and significance the compatriots attach to objective factors such as shared language, traditions, ancestry and so on. Membership in a nation, no less than in a family, involves concrete acts of volition based on subjective perceptions and preferences with respect to a complex of objective historical circumstances.
Mises explored the "nationality principle" and offers fascinating insights on immigration.  But, the point to emphasize is that people are influenced by their culture, and there are reasons why people develop attachments to their family, community, and culture.  Salerno's point about modern libertarians viewing individuals "as atomistic beings who lack emotional affinities and spiritual bonds with selected fellow humans" identifies yet another instance of rationalism which is pervasive in more econ-centric analyses.         

In summary, it is necessary to acknowledge the facts underlying culture and nationalism if one is to make rational judgments about other people and about culture in general.  For example, if everyone had the same ability, despite their conditions, to somehow identify, derive, and implement the moral and legal principles underlying free systems of government, there would be hardly any political differences in the world and there would be few if any intellectual heroes, because everyone would tend toward the same objective conclusions. 

The Purpose of Judging Individuals and Cultures 
Consider a child who has been brainwashed from birth to believe that the dictator of his nation is an infallible demigod and that Americans represent the greatest evil in world history.  Could we judge this child to be immoral or dishonest?  Of course we could not because he had almost no ability or means to exercise his own judgment.  Essentially, he was raised in a prison camp.

However, while it would be difficult to hold this one child morally culpable as an individual subsisting under the yoke of a ruthless dictator, it would be objectively prudent to fear such an individual (absent other evidence) - in the same way we would not need to judge a grizzly bear as immoral to take precautions on a mountain hike.

The point is we do not make judgments of people for the sake of making judgments.  We make judgments in order to inform our own actions with respect to other individuals in order to advance our own self-interest.  From the standpoint of self-defense, it doesn't matter whether a given individual is a brainwashed psychopath or a cunning evil genius that meticulously plots murder, you should protect yourself from that person.  Psychological state bears on the punishment for a crime and on the particular ways in which you might seek to protect yourself, however, the first step is simply to recognize a danger.     

Going on with this example, we certainly could morally judge that child's culture, that is, we could objectively judge the dominant ideas prevalent in that country as espoused by their rulers.  We would say their culture is unequivocally evil.  It is culture based on authoritarian dogma that subjugates and impoverishes its people and militarily threatens the outside world all for the aggrandizement of its maniacal rulers.

But again, what's the purpose of making a cultural level judgment?  The purpose is to identify a danger or a threat in order to help prevent such a culture from taking root here both by promulgating better ideas and by militarily positioning to thwart attacks from such a country. It is necessary, from the stand point of self-interest, to grasp and evaluate the premises of cultures in order to benefit from harmonious relationships with friends and to protect ourselves from enemies.  

As proponents of individualism, we know that any given individual has the potential to be a civilized, rational, productive person, however, in the context of making a timely, self-defense level judgment where more evidence is not available, a person or a group's cultural origin is a valid category of evidence.  For example, someone emanating from a hotbed of terrorism is more likely, on average, to be a threat than someone emanating from a civilized, friendly, peaceful nation.  Could you be wrong?  Of course, and if it pays to invest more time and resources to be sure, then by all means.  However, in the absence of other information and given limited time and resources, this is absolutely a valid method of judgment.   

Objective Ethics Versus Multiculturalism
In the prior sections, I argued that factors beyond one's control can affect individual development, and thus, such factors are relevant considerations in making judgments, absent any other evidence to the contrary.  The modern left recognizes and acknowledges culture as a relevant influencing factor but then applies ethical relativism to conclude that no culture, or no set of ideas, are better than any other (except for the west which they regard as unequivocally evil).  This is the essential premise underlying multiculturalism.

Ethical relativism should be rejected in favor of objective ethics.  The values of the west, which at root are reason and political freedom, are objectively life serving values and therefore are superior to superstition and slavery.  Since western values are chosen values and open to all and, in fact, accepted to varying degrees in countries all over the world, race-based espousal of western civilization should be seen as a false alternative to multiculturalism.  

The evolution and struggle for reason and political freedom over hundreds of years exemplifies how difficult these concepts have been to discover, develop, and apply while demonstrating how easy it is for irrational ideas to take root and destroy civilization. This is why we must fight so vigorously today for a rational culture, i.e., a culture in which the dominant ideas are predicated on the value of western civilization.

Objective Judgment of Cultures as the Antidote to Racism and Xenophobia
The concept of "phobia" connotes an irrational fear.  The fear of being consumed by a society of superstitious, witch burning fascists is not an irrational fear.  Such societies have existed and exist today. History is filled with tales of lost civilizations.  Objectively upholding the values of reason, individualism, and political freedom against those who advocate superstition, collectivism, and dictatorship is neither an instance of racism nor xenophobia - it is their antidote.

The Importance of Culture to the Concept of Citizenship in a Free Society
The political and legal concept of citizenship means that within a legally demarcated border, the state defines a standard by which it regards individuals to be a part of that nation and subject to its laws.

The concept of the naturalized citizen relies on birth or inheritance from parent to child or follows from a legal process by which a foreign-born person becomes naturalized.  Why is this a reasonable criterion for citizenship?  Because it implicitly acknowledges that being raised by parents that are familiar with the customs and laws of the country enables a general acceptance and understanding of the nation's founding principles, system of government, and culture.  Is that a perfect test?  No, but it is a completely reasonable way to practically implement citizenship.

Note the implication that family and culture influence people. If this were not true, birth parent would have no bearing on citizenship and child rearing would have almost no purpose.  With respect to citizenship for foreigners, presently, there is a residency requirement, a civics test, and an oath as part of the process.  Again, since the prospective citizen was not born in the U.S., there is no expectation that the person would be familiar with our customs or laws and so a test and residency (time) is appropriately required.

The concept of citizenship enables a specific and well defined political relationship between the government and the individuals that comprise that nation.  Citizens are held accountable for violating the defined law, and the state’s legal authority is necessarily defined and delimited by that same law.

The Origin of Borders
While individuals have inalienable rights by their nature, not as a privilege bestowed by government, it is a fact that the government which protects those rights must exist somewhere within proximity to those it represents.  A government, by its nature, is limited to a certain jurisdiction, i.e., a geographical boundary within which it may apply the laws agreed to by individuals and property owners within it.  The purpose of such a boundary is that it provides an objective legal demarcation within which it can define and execute its legal authority. Anyone residing within that jurisdiction accedes to its laws and agrees that issues pertaining to the jurisdiction are managed by elected representatives.  This allows its representatives to engage in agreements with neighboring jurisdictions over various issues.

At America's founding, the sovereign states voluntarily joined to form the United States with the Constitution as the legal framework for dealing with cross border and national issues.  The states within this union broadly agreed on the nature and scope of government, and a byproduct of this union was unrestricted travel and commerce across state lines.  Texas and other states subsequently joined this union while other jurisdictions, such as Mexico and Canada, have not.

Citizens Versus Foreign Nationals in the Context of Foreign Policy 
While the concept of citizenship defines the relationship of individuals within a country to the government, the relationship of the government to foreign nations is an entirely different context.

The primary authority to protect a nation's citizens from foreign threats is delegated to the government, which retains a legal monopoly on the use of force. The government protects its citizens from foreign threats by maintaining an armed force and conducting affairs of state on behalf of its private citizens.

This function entails identifying and defending the country from threats that develop outside the country as well as defining the parameters by which any given nation can conduct commerce and travel between nations.

Foreign Threats Distinguished from Domestic Threats
As opposed to a threat aimed at a specific individual within the country, foreign policy is concerned with threats to the nation.  A threat to the country concerns the continued existence of the very institutions and legal framework upon which the nation functions.  Therefore, threats to the nation are of a different nature than more isolated threats by domestic criminals toward other citizens, and these threats take different forms including foreign armies, spies, terrorist cells, or any person or organization that seeks to permanently alter the nature and function of national government from freedom to any form of totalitarianism.  

The latter case of altering the nature and function of government can be accomplished through military means or through longer term cultural transformation.  A cultural transformation requires larger groups of individuals who oppose assimilation and who seek to fundamentally alter the nature and function of constitutional government.  Consequently, this bears on policies related to mass migration, in general, and, in particular, mass migrations from parts of the world that are hostile to western values of individual rights and political freedom (mass migration discussed further below).   

The power we grant to the government with respect to foreign policy is necessarily different than the power we grant the police force within the country that enforces domestic laws. It's important to develop objective guidelines for this power since, as we have seen, it is too easy for any state action to be justified by reference to "national security."  On the other hand, the government does have a vital, justifiable role in this regard, and its enumerated powers must be sufficient to the task. 

Conditions for Determining Foreign Threats
There are two obvious primary conditions for a foreign threat to exist: means and motive.

"Means" is simply the physical ability to cause harm.  There may be an evil village somewhere in a jungle that really hates and wishes to harm the United States, however, if they only have a few rocks and spears, there is no reason to regard them as a serious foreign policy threat.  

"Motive" is ideological opposition, i.e., a willingness or desire to see America destroyed or overthrown.  Britain has a formidable armed service, but we don't worry about them because they share our basic view of law and government.  

However, if a nation has both motive to destroy us (e.g., communists, Islamists, etc.) and the means to accomplish it, they would constitute a real threat.

Consequently, a reasonable and desirable goal of foreign policy is to identify objectively hostile ideologies which serve as motives for attack, and to assess other nations' military ability to achieve an attack.  

Immigration Policy as Derivative of Foreign Policy
In light of the above, how should the government conduct its foreign policy, i.e., how should it attempt to identify and defeat threats from foreign countries? 

Thwarting an obvious invasion force such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would fall within the government's proper function to protect the country.  The government's job is to repel such an invasion since private property owners do not wish to live under the rule of the Japanese emperor, or the Nazi Reich, or today, perhaps an Islamic caliphate.  In this instance, it would be presupposed that a successful invasion of America by a foreign enemy would result in an overthrow of our government along with laws and institutions that define our nation and our economic life.  

If it's true that we empower the government to repel a direct invasion force that would seek to undermine and overthrow our system of government, why would it ever be considered advisable to allow an indirect invasion to occur through legal or illegal immigration of potentially dangerous people?        

If the government's proper foreign policy endeavors to identify and eliminate existential threats from overseas by procuring intelligence and launching attacks against enemy states, why wouldn't its foreign policy seek to identify existential threats from those on its border seeking to enter the country?  Why wouldn't we apply at least as much scrutiny if not more to those entering the country? 

Furthermore, isn't preemptive action valid in foreign policy? For example, does a proper foreign policy have to wait for Iran to actually launch a nuclear bomb before taking action against them?  Would we have to wait for an armada of jihadists in the New York harbor to actually fire their guns before apprehending them or granting them visas?  

The answer to these questions is that immigration policy serves as a subset of foreign policy, i.e., it is the way to ascertain whether foreign nationals are a threat to the citizens of the country and in what way if any they should be allowed to enter the country or to be granted citizenship.    

Natural Rights, Civil Rights, and Sovereignty
Individuals possess certain inalienable rights or "natural rights," but these are distinct from civil rights defined by the Constitution which are applicable only to citizens of the United States.  There is no obligation under the Constitution to protect the civil rights of non-citizens.  The policies by which our country deals with foreign nationals is and should be reasonable and a matter of law (not fiat), but distinguishing natural rights from the civil rights of citizens is an important legal distinction.   

There is certainly no right by anyone to trespass nor to overrule the rights of property owners that own the property of a nation.  Those property owners, through their representatives in the national government, have every right to make polices to provide for their own defense.  This means that they can restrict who comes onto their own property and they can agree on common policies to restrict who may come onto any one's property as a means of national defense. These concepts form the basis of the concept of sovereignty.  In this regard, Ayn Rand wrote:   
A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation—a nation that recognizes, respects, and protects the individual rights of its citizens—has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system, and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense)... 
Such a nation has a right to its sovereignty (derived from the rights of its citizens) and a right to demand that its sovereignty be respected by all other nations.
In this sense, there is no "right to immigrate," but this does not mean that the common policy can be arbitrary.  If a property owner seeks to transact or cooperate with a foreign national and such actions neither threaten nor place an unwanted burden on the other property owners, there is no basis for exclusion.  The right of a property owner to freely transact within the country on his own property is a separate issue from a policy that provides for the common interests of the nation of property owners.  

For example, an individual property owner can choose arbitrarily not to deal with red heads. However, an arbitrary policy of immigration impinges on the rights of other property owners, and since the government is granted a legal monopoly on the use of retaliatory force, this force must be placed under objective law.    
  
Immigration and the Rights of Individual Property Owners
A free country consists of privately owned land or land held in common (government land).   It's been argued that if a private property owner in a country wishes to bring in a foreign national, the government has no basis upon which to stop it.  After all, how can the state tell a private citizen whom he may or may not interact with on his own private property?    

This argument commits the fallacy of context dropping.  The legal concept of private property pertains to citizens vis-a-vis other citizens within a country.  The government is granted the power to represent the private property owners, and so the legal context governing domestic private property owners' transactions with foreigners is in a different category.  This does not give the government arbitrary power over private property owners when dealing with foreigners, but it does provide a legal basis for the government to restrict certain activities based on national defense.  

For example, should the government prevent a private company from selling military technology or weapons to a foreign nation?  Can a private property owner bring in individuals who carry a deadly virus?  Can a private property owner bring in and house thousands of communists who wish to overthrow the government? Could a private property owner who owns ocean frontage allow an enemy nation to dock its nuclear submarine fleet and board its military personnel? Can private property owners transact with nations under embargo? 

Obviously, the government has a role in regulating certain kinds of transactions that fall under national defense, whereas it has a very different role with respect to private transactions between citizens.  

Immigration in a Free Society Versus Immigration in a Mixed Economy
So far, we have been considering mostly the context of a free economy, i.e., a state presumed to not have any welfare programs or subsidies in which the immigrant is essentially on their own.  What about a mixed economy where there are taxes, welfare schemes, and subsidies?  

Many economists try to link free trade to free immigration under the notion that people, or labor is "atomistic" like a good of some kind. But, in an exchange of goods, there is always a willing participant on both sides of the transaction, whereas free immigration is not analogous. In this article,  Hans-Herman Hoppe disputes the idea that an immigrant should be considered "invited" because he has been hired by an employer: 
Under welfare-statist condition the immigrant employer must pay only a small fraction of the full costs associated with the immigrant’s presence. He is permitted to socialize (externalize) a substantial part of such costs onto other property owners. Equipped with a work permit, the immigrant is allowed to make free use of every public facility: roads, parks, hospitals, schools, and no landlord, businessman, or private associated is permitted to discriminate against him as regards housing, em- ployment, accommodation, and association. That is, the immigrant comes invited with a substantial fringe benefits package paid for not (or only par- tially) by the immigrant employer (who allegedly has extended the invitation), but by other domestic proprietors as taxpayers who had no say in the invitation whatsoever. This is not an “invitation,” as commonly understood. This is an imposition.
In summary, in a free economy, immigration policy is necessary as a means of self-defense. In a welfare state, even in a case where an immigrant is invited by an employer, immigration presents an unwanted cost on the rest of the taxpaying public that must be considered.  

Basic Goals of Immigration Policy
Once it is clear that immigration policy is a reasonable and necessary function of government, the question turns to the actual policy.  First, we must specify the context of a relatively free society with a rights respecting government or the context of a mixed economy.  

In any case, I would argue that the proper policy involves elucidating objective criteria by which to determine the threat level of a foreign national. Earlier, I argued means and motive were the operating factors in ascertaining foreign threats.  This applies to immigration as well but in a different way.  Where a foreign military power represents a rather specific and discernible threat, the goal of immigration policy is to ascertain the level of threat from any given individual seeking to enter the country which requires a different analysis.       

The first question is why the immigrant seeking to come here?  There are immigrants sponsored by private individuals being brought for a specific project.  There are immigrants who seek asylum from inhumane or oppressive conditions. There are immigrants who simply seek a better life than the one they have in their home country. Also, it must be clarified whether the person is here temporarily or seeking permanent status.  The reason for seeking entry partly determines the criteria.  

I think there are a few obvious general considerations.  Employer sponsorship, criminal record, infectious disease, hostile ideology, country of origin (particularly any country with which we are at war, have limited diplomatic relations or have deemed an enemy), familiarity with law and customs, language ability, sponsorship of relatives, and financial position, are all valid considerations that bear on likelihood of representing a threat and the probability of assimilation. The case of mass migration is discussed later. 

It should be emphasized that there are degrees of "threat."  A country seeking to militarily overthrow the government is a high threat.  Although an individual or group with an incompatible political philosophy is not as high a threat as a group with bombs, it is still a threat, and all else equal, should weigh towards grounds for restriction (ideology discussed further below).  This must be evaluated in context.  Is that person entering for a brief visit or seeking permanent status? Are they here as part of the circus or to learn nuclear physics or to lead a political campaign?  The point is that this contextual evaluation must consider both "means" and "motives" in the broadest way in ascertaining threat level.  While a military attack is one form of threat, so is a cultural revolution which seeks to obliterate western values. 


Burden of Proof on Immigrant under Constraints of Time and Resources
If individuals empower the government to protect the country from foreign threats, the first principle would be, in effect, no one enters unless you can prove you are not a threat.  The burden of proof is on the individuals seeking to enter, a point I made in my original post, and also made by Dr. Ed Powell in his essay on immigration.  There is no natural right for anyone to enter a foreign nation (private property) without the approval of the private property owners of that nation as represented by the national government. 

Furthermore, there is the reality of time and cost.  Given enough time and resources, I'm sure government agents could compile an entire dossier on every single person on the planet thus enabling a full and complete analysis of their background.  Of course, this is impossible and is not the burden of American taxpayers. If an individual wants to sponsor another personally or through a business and offer to pay the cost of the vetting, that should be taken into consideration.    

The easier it is to check someone’s history then the more likely they are to be granted entry.  A British national with a PhD in engineering that is coming here to work for an American company and whose criminal and medical records can be easily verified should obviously be granted almost immediate entry.  If someone comes from a third world country with a history of dictatorship and sponsorship of jihadists, with no sponsorship from someone already here and no ability to directly verify his record, then he should be at the bottom of the list if not outright rejected for entry.  

While there should be a legal process for determining whether someone meets the criteria, the process by which we determine those standards should be a matter of objective policy consistent with the government's obligation to protect the rights of its people.  

Mass Immigration as an Invasion, versus Limited Immigration 
Obviously, two immigrants in a nation of 300 million people could have very little effect on the host country, but what if 50 or 100 million immigrants from India or China sought to land in America?  Numbers and size do matter, and, unlike virtually any other foreign policy consideration, the act of allowing mass numbers of foreign nationals into a country of private property owners can irrevocably change the very institutions of government.  As Ralph Raico wrote: "Free immigration would appear to be in a different category from other policy decisions, in that its consequences permanently and radically alter the very composition of the democratic political body that makes those decisions." 

Not only are large groups of immigrants more likely to form their own community rather than assimilate, they are an electoral (and physical) threat to overthrow existing institutions.  Imagine if millions of immigrants from a hostile country essentially took over a city, state, or region with the intention of changing the form of government or affecting national policy or attacking the current residents?  

While Americans are generous, and law can make temporary provisions for people seeking asylum or escape from war, particularly in a case where the immigrants originate from a peaceful or compatible culture, the law must primarily protect the rights and interests of American citizens.  Indiscriminately allowing mass migrations of unskilled people from third world nations with a history and culture of despotism, particularly in the context of a mixed economy where subsidies and externalities are born by taxpayers, and given the political voting risks, mass immigration is of a different nature than limited immigration, and must be evaluated in that context.    

The time and resources necessary to vet massive numbers of immigrants whom no private property owner is sponsoring relies on the premise of national self-sacrifice, and altruism is never a basis upon which we should determine immigration policy.  

Ideology as Valid Litmus Test
Above I specifically included ideology as valid criterion.  I have heard it argued that the government should not have an ideological litmus test for prospective immigrants.  

Once it is seen that immigration is an aspect of national defense, claiming that ideology has no bearing would be like claiming the defense department and intelligence services should not consider ideology in identifying any military threats.  Such a policy would eliminate the concept of "motive" from consideration.  Would they then argue that Britain should be regarded as much of a threat as North Korea since we cannot consider ideology?  In the absence of any other information, is a Canadian atheist as much of a threat as a Jihadist?  Of course, such a line of reasoning is an egregious and suicidal error.  

Although, people don't wear ideology stickers, certainly, this is a valid consideration where it can or cannot be established in light of other evidence.  A similar point is made by Ed Mazlish in his post on immigration.      

Country of Origin as Valid Litmus Test
Above I specifically included country of origin as a valid criterion.  When immigration is understood as a part of national defense, and motive is seen as a an important consideration, the earlier discussion of cultural factors becomes relevant.  As discussed at length earlier using an example of a child brought up in a dictatorship, one's country and culture is a valid category of evidence that should be weighed along with other evidence.  For example, those coming from countries that have a history of despotism, poverty, civil war, and/or that have limited diplomatic relationship with the west or are outright enemy states, should be considered accordingly.   This factor is even more important in the context of mass migration where a large group of people from a particular area seeks entry.  

"Innocent Until Proven Guilty" as Invalid in the Context of Foreign Policy 
The presumption of innocence is a principle applicable in a domestic criminal proceeding where an individual has been charged with a crime.  Prospective immigrants have not been charged with a crime, they are seeking to cross the legally established border from an area which may or may not share the same principles of law, and it is the government's proper function, indeed, primary function, to ascertain whether they represent a threat or not.  The goal should be to define a policy for determining what constitutes an objective threat and decide upon that basis whom to allow into the country.  

The idea that there should be a presumption of innocence with respect to immigrants is a violation of the principle of self-defense for the same reasons one does not grant a presumption of innocence to someone who has rung the doorbell.  

Take another foreign policy scenario.  In a war in which our armed services bomb another nation, do we grant a presumption of innocence to civilians?  Should we interview each person in the target city before launching an attack or invasion? Of course, the context of national defense is entirely different sphere than the context of domestic law enforcement and judicial proceedings.      

Economic Arguments Valid Contextually but Not Primary
Imagine you are stranded on an island. Would you rather have three people with you or 10,000? Of course, if the 10,000 are all good hard-working people, you'd rather have 10,000, because although there is more "competition" for any one job, more people means more division of labor and therefore, more overall production for the island, and every one's standard of living would be better overall.  Your own labor would go further since, instead of having to do everything to survive, you could take advantage of the fact that, so many other people are working on other things.  On the other hand, if those 10,000 people are cannibals, you'd rather be with your three friends. 

With respect to immigration, Libertarian's tending to make the former purely economic argument with respect to the effect of a growing population on the division of labor, believing that a kind of anarchistic open borders immigration policy squares with their concept of "liberty" while relying on the utilitarian argument that such a policy will benefit all economically.  Others on the right, who oppose unlimited immigration, tend to focus on the latter argument related to the suitability of the types of people entering the "island," their prospects for assimilating, and the legal theory surrounding a free nation's territorial integrity.  Many, on this side, even question or disagree with the Libertarian economic argument, holding instead that more workers will lower wages and displace existing workers from their current employment. 

In a certain context, Libertarians are correct that, in the long run, population growth in a free economy does tend to benefit all for the reasons cited.  However, in the short run, it's also correct to say that an immediate importation of labor into a certain industry will tend to depress wages in that industry and affect many people.  However, while these are important secondary considerations, that is not the context in which we should consider immigration.  Immigration policies must consider the more complex context of international borders, not just the context of movement between local jurisdictions or across state lines within a free country where there are long standing constitutional and legal agreements, and where there is a judicial tradition based on the common law. 

Although Murray Rothbard's views on immigration changed over time and I would not regard him as an open borders advocate, in the following passage is an example of drawing a false equivalence between intranational and international contexts as he likens foreign immigrants to citizens moving across state lines:  
If it is sound to erect a barrier along our national boundary lines, against those who see greater opportunities here than in their native land, why should we not erect similar barriers between states and localities within our nation? Why should a low-paid worker . . . be allowed to migrate from a failing buggy shop in Massachusetts to the expanding automobile shops in Detroit. . . . He would compete with native Detroiters for food and clothing and housing. He might be willing to work for less than the prevailing wage in Detroit, “upsetting the labor market” there. . . . 
Again, while these economic arguments are valid within a certain context, the universal application to an international border is based on false equivalence.  

If we are considering a context in which free states within a country like the U.S. are conducting commerce, or between two free countries, I would agree with this reasoning.  However, when conducting commerce or contemplating immigration policies between two nations that may be allies, enemies, or somewhere in between, such as between the U.S. and China, Britain, Canada, Mexico, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, or Somalia, it's clear that there are other more primary factors that must be considered.  

Since national defense seeks to protect and preserve the very institutions and legal framework that create the free country to begin with, national defense concerns always are primary to economic considerations.  In the context of a case where there is little or no defense concern, it is always true that a freer market is advantageous to all in the long run.    

There Will Always Be a Need for Borders and Immigration Policy
The idea that we can eliminate the threat by crushing our enemies overseas and therefore allow virtually anyone to subsequently enter the country does not recognize the nature of reality.  The fact is that there are always bad guys out there, and the government's job is to protect its citizens from them.  Simply put, there will never be a time when the government can cease to police its own border.  Only in some future fantasy world in which all states agreed to some form of union under western principles of law and individual liberty could we even contemplate a borderless nation.  

Furthermore, to advocate defeating our enemies abroad based on rational foreign policy concerns, but not concerning ourselves with potential enemies crossing our own border is a wild contradiction.  Both aspects of defense are crucial and complementary.  

Policy as Contextual, The Case of Ellis Island  
The policies set forth at any time are contextual and are modulated by the government's real-life assessment of threats to its own existence. It's been argued that the mass migration that took place in the United States near the turn of the last century stemming from the Immigration Act of 1891 should serve as a kind of model for how immigration should be conducted today.  It's as if, proponents of this view hold, that since we did it this way once, we should do it this way for all people for all of time.  Once again, this argument commits the fallacy of context dropping.

First, the Ellis Island immigration was stopped and replaced with a more restrictve policy in 1924, in other words, this was never considered to be a forever policy.  Now consider the situation in the late 19th century from the standpoint of American foreign policy makers.  Massive numbers of Europeans were leaving the poverty and oppression of Europe for freedom in the United States.  Generally, these were people of European ancestry who were familiar with western culture and customs of law, religion, science, philosophy, art, etc.  In other words, they were relatively compatible with American culture, had respect for U.S. laws and customs, and wanted to assimilate.  Furthermore, there were no nuclear bombs and no war on Jihadi terrorism, and America had no income tax, no welfare state, and was a growing industrial powerhouse that sought cheap labor for its factories and businesses. 

Now contrast this context with mass migration taking place today in the wake of the Syrian civil war.  Many of the migrants are overtly hostile to western institutions.  They seek to impose Sharia law which is antithetical to western precepts of law and morality, and endorse such practices as stoning adulterers and murdering homosexuals.  They bring hostility toward open expression and threaten and murder critics of their religious and political ideology.  We are engaged in a wider war with radical Islam in the same region, and many combatants from this war are pouring into Europe.  There are literally terrorist attacks emanating from this part of the world on almost a daily basis while intellectuals in the west defend and whitewash the attacks in the name of political correctness.  Europe welfare states and America are already bankrupt yet are obligated to pay for and subsidize these migrant workers who are mostly not professionally skilled and will have trouble finding work.  

The Ellis Island migration was a foreign policy decision made at that time in a certain context and had a major impact on American life, and it can be argued whether that was positive or not (my own ancestors came to America at this time).   Should we apply the same foreign policy conclusions from over a century ago to today's world given an entirely different set of circumstances?  To commit this egregious act of context dropping is not only a major error, it is suicidal.             

"Ayn Rand was an immigrant therefore open borders" is Not Valid Argument
Ayn Rand escaped the Soviet Union and her subsequent work bestowed a massive benefit on the world.  However, the possibility that we might exclude a future Ayn Rand or some other genius, is not a justification for open borders nor is it a justification for abdicating our national defense.  

In a foreign policy matter, there is always the potential for collateral damage.  How many potential Ayn Rands did the Allies kill when they firebombed Germany or nuked Japan in World War II?  What if we had gone to war with the Soviets and had to consider bombing Leningrad?  Would they argue, “but, we could kill a potential Ayn Rand!" The same argument applies to any other country deemed a threat.  There are millions of potential Ayn Rand's out there in hell hole dictatorships, but it is not our duty to save or protect them if we are acting to defend ourselves.  It is our government's job to protect American citizens from foreign threats first.

Benevolent View of Immigration
Individuals should first fight to make their own countries free and prosperous, thus enabling peaceful and harmonious coexistence with other nations comprising different cultural traditions.  When that is not possible or individuals wish to cooperate voluntarily across borders, there should be no hostility towards the concept of immigration per se.  This view most emphatically does not justify a subjective or arbitrary policy, nor does it justify no policy.     

Real world threats and the nature of human cognition with respect to understanding and valuing the preconditions of a free and prosperous society, make it necessary to have a rational foreign defense policy that includes an immigration policy.  Those that reject borders, sovereignty, and/or the concept of citizenship, reject the human method of cognition in favor of a rationalistic and suicidal fantasy. 

Personal Note
This essay has attempted to provide some thoughtful context for the immigration debate.  By its nature, this a complex area that touches on concepts in philosophy, psychology, economics, law, and history among other areas.  The idea that this is a simple question and that anyone who takes one side or another or who even questions premises offered by one author or another is contemptible or "evil" or some other preposterous generalization represents a view derived from ignorance or evasion.  I challenge others with strong views on the matter to offer their arguments thoughtfully and comprehensively so that their views can be questioned and challenged.