In the English Civil War, a group of renegade soldiers, along with political supporters in London, began demanding radical reforms like universal suffrage, religious tolerance, equality before the law and popular sovereignty. The Levellers did not last long, but they remain an important turning point in Western history. Their radical idea was that a man must consent to be governed and therefore have a say in how he is governed. This is a seminal moment in Western history. A nation would be defined by its people, while empires would be defined by their territory.
Another way to look at it is that a nation is a group of people, who decide their borders, their customs and how they will govern themselves. The consent is not just from citizen to the state, but from citizen to citizen. An empire, in contrast, is whatever land the ruler can hold and the people within it. His relationship to the people is transactional. He guards the people, enforces the rules and the people pay taxes. The people have no obligations to one another, at least in a legal sense. Their only duties are to the king as a subject, while they remain in the kingdom. L’Etat, c’est moi.
The critical thing here is that a citizen has obligations to his fellow citizens, while a subject only has obligations to his ruler. The former is the model we have had in the West for a long time now. In America, it has been the only model. All the blather about the propositional nation stuff obscures this fact in an attempt to justify mass immigration, but even within that mythological concept of America, the citizen is defined by his relationship to his fellow citizens. It’s not the government who defines the citizen. It is the citizen that defines the state. As such, the citizens get to decide who is and who is not a citizen.
That’s the problem the open borders types refuse to address. The government of a nation is just an extension of that agreement between the citizens. It’s even written into the American Constitution, right at the very beginning.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In a nation, the government is defined by the people – literally. The people decide who is and who is not “the people” by whatever means they find agreeable. As with any contract, social or otherwise, the parties enter into it voluntarily. We don’t think of it that way, because we are born into our citizenship in most cases, but the fact that we can renounce our citizenship means it is always voluntary. Further, the fact that the state cannot revoke it means it is not a contract with the state. It is a contract with our fellow citizens.
In a land of no borders, there can be no social contract. What would be the point? If anyone can wander in and get the benefits of the contract, without first consenting to the terms of the contract and gaining the agreement of the counter party, what value can there be in citizenship? Citizenship becomes a suckers deal, just as it was in the Roman Empire when citizenship simply meant you paid taxes and had to provide men to the military. In the world of open borders, citizenship is all obligation and no benefit.
In such a world, it will not take long before the calls of patriotism fall flat. After all, what is patriotism but the moral obligation of a citizen to his fellow citizens? Patriotism is the spirit of the social contract. To their credit, the open borders crowd agrees that their vision of paradise is one where all human relations are transactional. Everyone acts in their self interest. So, why would people serve jury duty? Volunteer at their kid’s school? Serve in the military? All of these things assume a moral duty to your fellow citizens. In the borderless paradise, no one owes anyone anything.
Even in the paradise of open borders, order must be maintained and the interests of the wealthy protected. When calls to patriotism and culture are no longer tools available to the state, force is what’s left. This custodial state we see being rolled out by our rulers is not due to a breakdown of the citizens willingness to uphold their part of the social contract. It is the breakdown of the social contract that is causing the growth of the custodial state. Put another way, the state is not just failing in its obligations, it is nullifying the compact between citizens. In fact, they are obliterating the very concept of citizenship.
In response to the Leveller’s call or democratic rights, Henry Ireton responded,
No person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom, and in determining or choosing those that shall determine what laws we shall be ruled by here — no person hath a right to this, that hath not a permanent fixed interest in this kingdom.
How is this different from the arguments of the open borders proponents? They argue, that no one has a right to say who can walk into your country. They say, no one has a right to determine who is and who is not entitled to to the blessings of liberty. Ireton rejected the concept of citizenship. Those who demand open borders are doing the same thing. Instead of a king, they promise a custodial state to rule over us, to keep us safe, accountable only to those with a permanent interest in it.