The Religion of Open Borders

I’m fond of pointing out that the main reason Progressives win every fight is that their opponents make the mistake of thinking it is a debate over facts and reasons. The people calling themselves conservative right now are sure that all they have to do is round up the facts and present them to the other side and the Left will throw down their weapons and embrace them as brothers.

Reality is completely different. Progressives are religious fanatics and no amount of reality will shake them from their beliefs. Their religion does not have a superior being anymore, but it has lots of supernatural components. Most important, it has a moral component. The adherent is there to receive grace and that comes through social activism. They act locally because they think eternally.

We’re seeing a similar thing with open borders. It’s common to blame the greedy cheap labor lobbies for buying off pols in both parties, but there’s not a ton of evidence for it. The guys doing most of the hiring of illegals are small businesses with no lobbying power. Amnesty actually harms the cheap labor lobbies because it would end the under the table hiring. Yeah, there are cheap labor lobbies, but they are not the bogeymen many imagine.

Steve Sailer has other ideas. In this post about Paul Ryan, he blames black people.

In the early 1990s I visited the Milwaukee fairgrounds on the lakefront a couple of times for various festivals. I recall being struck by how African Americans made up a large percentage of the partiers at the festivals, but a small percentage of the workers. Most of the work seemed to be getting done by Mexicans.

A continuing theme here at iSteve is that Milwaukee and Madison have, on average, close to the worst blacks in the country. Most Northern cities’ blacks are the descendants of people who left the South in the 1940s and 1950s for jobs in the North. But Wisconsin’s blacks tend to be the descendants of people who left Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s for welfare in social democratic Wisconsin.

It’s only natural for Wisconsin whites like Paul Ryan to see Mexicans as better than blacks and thus want more of them in order to demographically swamp the African-Americans who have made life miserable for Wisconsin whites. But it’s also natural for Republicans further from the Canadian Border to be less naive about the poorly thought-through social engineering emotions of Wisconsin politicians.

Steve is fond of this sort of reductionist argument. It sounds good at first, but when you think about how it must work, it starts to sound implausible when you scale up from one guy at the state fair. Imagine Ryan meeting with his team and saying, “We have to do something about our bad blacks and I think we should import a bunch of Mexicans!”

I don’t know. Maybe that’s happening at secret meetings of The Deep State™ and I’m terribly naive, but my sense is exactly no one in Wisconsin thinks like this. I get around a lot and what you always hear from amnesty advocates is one of two talking points. One is that Hispanics are wonderful hardworking additions to the country. The other is they are a necessary part of the labor market.

Frankly, I don’t know if anyone that says these things thinks much about it. They just say these things because that’s what you do. If you are a Democrat, you are for amnesty so you pick from one of the Democrat talking points. The same is true for most Republicans. Libertarians, of course, have their fantasies about the free flow of good and people in a world without government.

My hunch is what lies at the core of the Religion of Open Borders is morality. It’s a manifestation of Public Protestantism. In a prior age, the Yankee religious impulse was focused on the salvation of society, not of the individual. You had men in black clothes making sure you were observant of the Sabbath and not having too much fun. Once God faded from the picture and the world got smaller, this impulse folded into what we call social activism. The moonbat woman next door with the Prius really does think she is saving the planet.

The Religion of Open Borders is the next great cause or perhaps the globalization of Yankee Public Protestantism. Take a look at this article by Tyler Cowen’s flunky, Alex Tabarrok.

Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.

The overwhelming majority of would-be immigrants want little more than to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to economic opportunity and participating in peaceful, voluntary trade. But lawmakers and heads of state quash these dreams with state-sanctioned violence—forced repatriation, involuntary detention, or worse—often while paying lip service to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

That is a purely moral argument. He couches it a little in economic terms, but he is not shying away from the moral claims he is making in favor of mass immigration.

What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity? What moral theory justifies using tools of exclusion to prevent people from exercising their right to vote with their feet?

No standard moral framework, be it utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Christian, or any other well-developed perspective, regards people from foreign lands as less entitled to exercise their rights—or as inherently possessing less moral worth—than people lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time. Nationalism, of course, discounts the rights, interests, and moral value of “the Other, but this disposition is inconsistent with our fundamental moral teachings and beliefs.

The language used here is right out of the Abolitionist Movement. It is right from the Civil Rights Movement. It’s right out of John Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity. God does not make an appearance, but clearly Alex believes that the path to grace is through creating a world where “every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection.”

15 thoughts on “The Religion of Open Borders

  1. A salient (har har) criticism. Reducing open-borders enthusiasm (and other aspects of liberalism) to pure cynicism has a certain rhetorical appeal–it is, in a sense, turning their own weapons on them. Liberalism’s inability to comprehend non-liberal moral systems (cf. Jonathan Haidt’s work) forces them to explain all objections to liberalism as either cynical self-interest or false consciousness. We recognize this failure to take our beliefs seriously as bogus when applied to us. We should recognize it as bogus when applied to them. Of course one’s sincere beliefs can be helped along when they coincide with one’s self-interest, but self-interest really isn’t any more adequate to explain the masochism of liberalism than it is to explain, say, clerical celibacy in the middle ages.

    I think an honest critique has to start from the premise that–unless there’s evidence to the contrary–people generally mean what they say and care about the things they claim to care about. In the manner of the medieval disputation, we ought to start by making the strongest possible case for the opposing position rather than by setting up a straw man that he wouldn’t recognize. Personally, I’m a fan of Jim Kalb’s criticism of liberalism, which takes liberalism seriously enough to draw out an inner consistency of its development from classical liberalism (much of which would be called conservative today) to contemporary moralistic, nanny-state, multiculturalism based on its denial of a shared definition of the good. I don’t know to what extent a contemporary liberal would actually recognize himself in Kalb’s characterization, but it’s not a straw man.

    (On the other hand, part of me is so disgusted and frustrated by the resilience of the politically correct left that I am in practice often satisfied to make use of any rhetorical weapon available, no matter how dubious or crude, for unseating it from its high-handed moralism.)

  2. stopped consistently reading steve, alxs, tyler, etc..everything has become too predictable . I maybe visit one or twice a week, but seems like everyone is spinning their wheels, going nowhere with the same tired argument.

  3. I think it’s all about more people to buy stuff, nothing more. The country will take care of itself, we just need to sell some more cheap stuff for the almighty dollar.

  4. I get it that rational arguments don’t work for the looneys, but I can’t Tabarrok’s central premise go unchallenged.

    No moral system would support closed borders? Maimonides might take issue with that claim and the old Scholastic doctrine of irresponsible charity comes to mind as well.

    Utilitarianism? Destroying the greatest wealth producing economies in the world through unrestricted immigration would create the greatest good for the greatest number? Most likely not.

    Christianity is all about salvation, whether through faith or good works, your choice (I vote both!). One could make an argument that destroying what is left of Christianity through unrestricted immigration of Muslims would effectively close the gates of heaven and would certainly not be in God’s best interest.

    The strength of the post-modernists is that they don’t even try to portray their opponents arguments honestly. In fact, they put whatever words into their opponents mouths they want and claim it is the truth:

    Mohamed said killing infidels is bad.
    Jesus said abortion is OK.
    Lincoln was a Democrat.

    Our weakness is our lack of indoctrination. We don’t read the holy books or classics anymore. The post-modernists really don’t care what they say in the first place and will use them to advance whatever goal they are pursuing at the time.

    Win or lose, this ain’t going to be pretty. Truth will win in the end, but truth can be a desolation as well as a civilization.

  5. In the 1970s I was in high school in the Chicago area. I had a job for a decent suburban Italian restaurant delivering pizza’s and Italian dinners. The drivers, salad girls and cooks were all local high school kids or young adults. The pizza dough makers were old Italian guys and the dishwashers were Mexicans who spoke no English. I still remember the restaurant owner placing an order for illegals on the phone. As the minimum wage was $1.10/hr at the time, the Mexicans must have gotten 75 cents at best. Today I would guess that almost all of the workers are Mexican since few white high schoolers work in affluent suburbs.

    I think you are correct on the Liberal view of immigration as penance. The illegals are displacing almost all of the small business work and construction jobs. It’s not just wages, but for a small guy the HR cost of handling OT, workmans comp etc. has just gotten out of hand. My guess is no small guy could do construction with any employees other than family so you go illegal.

  6. Re: Tabarrok -“Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly”

    I’ve seen this argument before and I always think of the Jews that migrated to Israel after WWII. The place was a DESERT. The native Arabs that had lived there for time out of mind, supposedly, had done nothing with it but follow a bunch of scraggly sheep around, eking out a bare subsistence. Now, 70 years later, it is hugely productive.
    It would seem that the “hard working Mexicans” could do the same thing with their country. And the Salvadorans. And the Guatemalans. And the Panamanians. And the bastard Syrian “refugees”.
    No, I think it’s the easy pickin’s from my wallet they’re here after.

    • The funny thing about that line, “Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly” is that if you said that in the context of people, Tabarrok would faint or run out of the room, fearful he would get fired for even hearing such heresy. All people are the same everywhere all the time, but nature is this cornucopia if diversity!

      • You can say that about people, but only if you do it Jared Diamond style — the people which emerged in resource-deprived areas (e.g. the Aztecs) only succumbed to the conquistadores because they came from areas with more resources. Science, technology, and especially culture had nothing at all to do with it. Nothing! Just the dumb blind luck of nature’s diversity.

        It’s science (says Diamond, with his PhD in ornithology).

        • Smallpox defeated the Aztecs. They lost about a third of their population to the disease. The amount of death caused more diseases as well as economic destabilisation due to a massive loss of numbers and morale. This meant the remaining Aztecs were vulnerable and beatable.

  7. It is curious how we are battered with the concept of social cohesion, yet our ‘leaders’ have brought about the very conditions where social cohesion (because increasingly the immigrant has no intention of any integration with the people already there) are well nigh impossible.

    But, as we know, it is easier to send memos than to do things. I always call this the Pot Hole Policy: the roads grow more and more pot-holed because the actual repair work is beyond most council staff responsible for their upkeep, but they are all very good indeed at sending each other memos about it, theorising about need and attending conferences.

    So in the light of this we do the easy things more and more. With immigration, memos to us natives about the need for integration beats the politicians having to actually sort out the problem. And for memos, I also mean laws supporting the socially-non-cohesive newcomers but castigating those already here (who because they read English can therefore can be told)

    • I suspect the underlying motivations for open borders differ slightly from country to country, but ultimately it is about spiritual salvation. The practical details are not very important. If you end up with riots in Paris and mass rapes in Rotterdam, those are just details to be tended to by the state. It gives them something to do.

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  9. Open border proponents are invariably liberal progressives or socialists or communists.
    They hate everything about the USA; it’s history, government, capitalism, its Constitution, absolutely everything.
    And they want to DESTROY THE USA.
    And the best way to do this is to have open borders and allow in illiterate, uneducated, non-English speaking, indigent folks who will be given the right to vote (illegally, by the way) . They WILL vote democratic or socialist because these politicians will promise them freebies.
    Note that in the not so distant past, immigrants were expected assimilate; this is no longer the case .
    Why?? because they can be inculcated and indoctrinated to believe that their lack of economic success is due to the evil machinations of the white ruling class and as their numbers increase, their votes will guarantee the election of folks like the Brooklyn born communist scum, Bernie Sanders.

    Open border proponents will supply all sorts of reasons in support of open borders; but they are lies. The real reason is to fundamentally change the USA, eviscerate the US Constitution, and turn the USA into a Cuba.

    Just listen to the communist, Bernie Sanders; today’s typical, mainstream democrat.

  10. Policy positions of the Left are always couched in moralistic terms. However, they really have only one moral position: obtaining and holding onto power (eventually despotic power). From power comes riches. In a relatively open society in which riches are distributed by the powerful and power is initiated by elections, it make sense to maximize the numbers of your voters. Thus they give us unbridled immigration of peasants and future members of the democrat base.

  11. The “tools of exclusion” are money. If you want to come here, apply through the proper channels, and don’t expect to receive any dinero from the taxpayers in the form of any kind of social welfare benefit. If you come without expecting anything in return except for opportunity and freedom, (and you are not Moslem) I am happy to see you if you plan on becoming an American. Even so, there has to be a limit and a balance. It is not possible to have a semi-cohesive culture when nearly all our immigrants are coming from the third world. Thanks, Ted Kennedy! Bastard.

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