Rational Capitalist on Facebook

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Philosophical Foundations of Immigration in a Free Society

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.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that comprehensive and well reasoned article. I've been making the same points in blurbs here and there, but it is great to have the case laid out in such a complete and coherent fashion. I will be sharing it widely.