Bryan Caplan  

Silent Citizenism

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Topher Hallquist effectively preaches cosmopolitanism to the Effective Altruism community:
Can you imagine a politician advocating free trade on the grounds that, while it might hurt the politician's own country a little, it would have enormous benefits for people living in other countries? Or making the same argument for immigration? In the United States, critics of military intervention tend to focus on the costs in terms of American lives and dollars, and the "lack of a compelling national interest." The fact that these interventions often wreak enormous havoc on the countries we bomb and invade can seem to come in as a distant fourth in anti-war rhetoric.

I suspect this also explains much of why most people aren't more committed to fighting global poverty. People may to believe, for example, that their donations will just get stolen by corrupt governments, but often this sounds like an excuse. And imagine what would happen if you went beyond praising the cost-effectiveness of anti-malarial bed nets, and told them to direct efforts from specific local causes they support. In response, they probably wouldn't tell you they care about geographic neighbors more than foreigners, but you might hear a little speech about the importance of responsibility towards your own community.

Topher remarks that "it's hard to explain America's current immigration policies without assuming a lot of quiet support" for citizenism.  But he actually establishes a broader point: it's hard to explain any country's policies on any important issue without assuming a lot of quiet support for citizenism.  Indeed, silent citizenism is baked into countries' very perceptions about what issues are important.




COMMENTS (24 to date)
Steve Sailer writes:

Right, we live in a world more peaceful and prosperous than any before it in history, and this great accomplishment is based on a seldom articulated ideology of citizenism.

Tom West writes:

it's hard to explain any country's policies on any important issue without assuming a lot of quiet support for citizenism.

Of course, that begs the question:

"Do governments that don't practice citizenism get removed from office and replaced by governments that do, or do countries that don't practice citizenism get eliminated and replaced by countries that do?"

Or more optimistically, "Was citizenism a requirement for a successful government/country in the past, but no longer a requirement for success today?"

NZ writes:

If citizenism is not baked into your country's perception about what is important, then why have a country at all?

MikeP writes:

If citizenism is not baked into your country's perception about what is important, then why have a country at all?

To keep out other countries' worse laws, policies, and enforcement.

Bruce Cleaver writes:

What MikeP said, x100. There is an assumption that the importation of an alien culture will not change the host culture's view of property rights, interpretation of Constitutional issues, etc. Of course it will.

NZ writes:

@MikeP:

That's my point: citizenism is baked into the very idea of a country. Similarly, a country that does not value citizenism will eventually cave in.

Edogg writes:

Bryan, I think you have inadvertently misrepresented the "Effective Altruism" community as not being cosmopolitan. As Topher acknowledges, the EA community is already extremely cosmopolitan; prioritizing charities that help the world's poorest over the poor of developed countries is one of the main things they advocate. Topher is preaching that they explicitly adopt the label of "cosmopolitanism".

Charles writes:

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MikeP writes:

NZ,

Keeping out other countries' worse laws, policies, and enforcement does not necessarily favor citizens over noncitizens. Rather the country's sovereignty favors residents of the country and holders of property and interests in the country. But so long as there is no material restriction on residence and ownership in the country, there is no favoritism toward citizens.

Citizens are favored only by virtue of having a high correlation with residence and ownership within the country. That's not citizenism any more than the fact that whites have a high correlation with residence and ownership within the US is racism.

NZ writes:

@MikeP:

A country in which there are "no material restrictions on residence or ownership" and "no favoritism toward citizens" is not really a country. It is an empty shell protecting some favorable circumstances, waiting to be occupied, exploited, and destroyed.

Countries are like software that sit on top of the hardware of their native peoples.

MikeP writes:

NZ,

You can believe that it is "self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".

Or you can believe something else.

Philo writes:

"Can you imagine a politician advocating free trade on the grounds that, while it might hurt the politician's own country a little, it would have enormous benefits for people living in other countries? Or making the same argument for immigration?" Yet *foreign aid* is sold to the public in part in just these terms. Charitable appeals do sometimes work. Clearly such an appeal in the case of free trade, or immigration, would be unsuccessful; but why is that?

NZ writes:

@Philo:

It's because foreign aid budgets are already there. I don't recall ever seeing a tax hike for the sake of foreign aid. Sure, getting rid of foreign aid might put more money in my pocket, but for the most part I don't notice it because it's already gone.

Opening up the country to other people, on the other hand, would immediately be felt by all except the politically and economically elite--who of course would make sure their jobs and neighborhoods are beyond the reach of any negative effects.

Jameson writes:

What do you mean by "silent," here? Don't most people explicitly say that their government's responsibility is first and foremost to them? If I outlined what "citizenism" meant, most of my friends would probably respond by saying, "I guess that's about right."

I think the obvious response to Steve Sailer is that citizenism has always been humans' natural inclination, so it can't explain modern prosperity.

Hugh writes:

Silent citizenism?

I think this really means a sense of belonging: one of the most feelings a human being can have.

We call those with no roof "homeless" not "houseless" because it is far more important to have a place where you belong (home) than just to own some real estate.

Look at any one of the nature channels for five minutes and you'll see that the need for home territory is not an invention of us humans, but is common to most animals.

In conclusion, Citizenists are more in tune with nature, more environmentally correct than the Open Border 'borgs.

MikeP writes:

Hugh,

I'm all for analogues of human property found in the natural world.

But the territory of a nation is certainly well beyond the scope of any natural instinct for home, family, or pack. Hence your conclusion does not follow, and in fact the observation of nature serves as strong evidence that the territory of a nation is not property.

Indeed, from the perspective of nature, citizenists look like obnoxious people who claim authority over the disposal of the separate properties of hundreds of millions of individuals they will never meet and never know -- an authority they can imagine only because of the unnatural power that a nation state provides.

Silas Barta writes:

Interestingly, I met Topher at a party (went by Chris), and I posed for him the same challenge on immigration that I always ask you; apparently, he hadn't considered it and said it was the best argument he had ever heard, which was strange, because it's just the application of a simple heuristic.

That challenge was, "How do you know when your immigration policy is *too* loose?" Since he had never considered the downsides of immigration, he hadn't considered any (very bad sign!), so I filled in the blanks: "How about if a million Chinese army regulars peacefully immigrated and then moved to strategic military points and..."

Generally, you can't have a model of when X is too high unless it represents when X would be too low.

MikeP writes:

"How about if a million Chinese army regulars peacefully immigrated and then moved to strategic military points and..."

That's simply a conspiracy of foreign agents -- exactly the kind of thing immigration authorities should be screening for, along with terrorists, felons, and carriers of contagion.

Do you have an example that would actually be a problem with open borders as open borders advocates understand them?

Silas Barta writes:

@MikeP: But prevention of such things is exactly why every nation ends up a restrictive policy: to disrupt such plans! Obviously, it's easy to spot literal armed invasions, but what about simply getting a strong cultural foothold, so that people will vote to secede (e.g. Crimea)? Whatever rule-based policy you try to follow to avoid the absurdity I mentioned, the foreign government can always go one level back.

You seem to be saying that Open Borders definitely includes reasonable screening measures and yet every Open Borders advocate fails to mention these as part of their ideal policy.

MikeP writes:

Silas Barta,

Yes, of course. The US denies visas to as many as half a million immigrants a year from Latin America because it might be a multi-level deep conspiracy in the service of eventual Chinese domination.

You seem to be saying that Open Borders definitely includes reasonable screening measures and yet every Open Borders advocate fails to mention these as part of their ideal policy.

Can you mention a single open borders advocate who does not believe that the government should deny entry to harmful individuals with proven specific cause? I'd help you answer that question if I could, but I can't.

Perhaps the reason open borders advocates don't mention screening measures is that the difference between accepting almost everyone and rejecting almost everyone is where the bulk of the disagreement is.

For instance, prior to the immigration acts of 1917, 1921, and 1924, Ellis Island accepted 98% of everyone in third and lower class who came to America and 100% of everyone in first and second class. That's a far cry from the acceptance of 1% (5000 general purpose visas for 500,000 illegal immigrants) that we see today and -- except for the Chinese Exclusion Act -- close enough to open borders that it makes little difference.

Pajser writes:
    MikeP: "But the territory of a nation is certainly well beyond the scope of any natural instinct for home, family, or pack. "

Chimp tribes have territories, they do not allow trespass to unknown males, organize patrols consisting of young males to control the borders once a day, and they have wars for territories.

MikeP writes:

When chimp tribes organize imperial or republican forms of order across many tribes' territories and the central authority dictates who the various tribes' territories may or may not allow across their borders, be sure to let me know.

Hugh writes:

@MikeP

"But the territory of a nation is certainly well beyond the scope of any natural instinct for home, family, or pack. "

Consider Scotland. It has been British for three centuries, but a large number of Scots feel sufficiently citizenist to make the upcoming independence referendum too close to call.

Their motivation is unlikely to be economic, as there are a large number of unknowns and costs to independence in the near term. They just want to be on their own because the citizenist urge is strong.

As an Englishman I respect the Scots' citizenism, and I would urge you (and Bryan) to do the same with your fellow citizens.

MikeP writes:

Hugh,

I have no problem with self determination. Indeed, I believe fundamentally that migration and trade blocks should be as large as possible and sovereignty blocks as small as possible.

In fact, it is not at all necessarily citizenist for Scotland to seek independence from the UK. It is better described as nationalist, hopefully in a good way.

As an Englishman I respect the Scots' citizenism...

Citizenism means abrogating the inalienable rights of individuals because they are not citizens. It does not mean wanting self government.

If you persist in attributing citizenism to the motives behind Scottish independence, at which point would you no longer respect their citizenism:

1. When there is no material restriction on residence, employment, and ownership of interests in Scotland whatsoever?

2. When there is no material restriction on residence, employment, and ownership of interests of UK and EU citizens in Scotland?

3. When they prohibit the free migration, residence, and employment of UK and EU citizens?

4. When they close the borders, deport all non-Scots, and seize all their interests to distribute them among citizens?

For my part, I would hope that the result of Scottish independence would yield #1, but I fully expect it will yield #2. #1 is not citizenist at all, and #2 is no more citizenist than the UK is today. Just how citizenist could they get for you to still respect them?

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