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Why I'm Not An 'Open Borders' Enthusiast

I know a certain contingent of my fellow libertarians will automatically bridle at that title, but hear me out...

IT'S THIS SIMPLE: To the greatest degree possible, I want to be amongst people who have been raised from age zero steeped in cultural reverence for the foundational principles of the American Revolution.

I want the fewest possible people around me who were raised in a place in which government corruption is considered either unremarkable or consistent with traditional or acceptable norms. I want to deal as little as possible with folks who didn't get told as children that all warrantless searches and seizures-- of data or anything else-- are illegal; who don't aspire to rugged individualism; or who harbor competing affections for any legal/political/philosophical tradition other than the one that inspired and informs the Declaration of Independence.

I'm OK with a handful on a citizenship path in America (and thus a path to voting, and possible public office) whose earliest and most deeply-embedded sensibilities were formed where graft is a feature of normal life; where "the rule of law" means nothing more than "the law of whoever is then in power"; or where the "presidency" is a lifetime office. If such immigrants join a society of unadulterated bedrock Americanism, to which they are only barely-noticeable exceptions, they-- and more particularly their children-- will be safely assimilated. But only if their numbers amount to no more than a relative handful.

FRANKLY, THE LEGAL/POLITICAL/PHILOSOPHICAL CULTURES of most of the rest of the world suck by comparison with America's (as established and still embedded, even though subject to a ferocious assault by its domestic enemies in recent decades). It is that cultural tradition which makes for actual American exceptionalism.

But our cultural tradition is demanding. Our American tradition requires us to stand up even just as lone individuals against power-grabs by the powerful-- a risky and costly business. Our tradition expects us to be vigilant and jealous of our liberties, and not lolling in the arms of the state, counting on it to provide for our well-being while we amuse and indulge ourselves.

Our tradition is frostbite on the banks of the Delaware in defense of our rights; facing down billy-clubs and police dogs in Selma in defense of our rights; and sacrificing the good life in Hawaii to expose massive government crimes in violation of the Fourth Amendment, in defense of our rights. Our tradition is the tradition of heroes.

THE CULTURAL TRADITIONS OF OTHERS are easy, by comparison. They are comfortable with compromise of principles; moral relativism; corruption and a "You can't fight City Hall" perspective.

Where rights are claimed in these other cultures, it is usually a petulant insistence on state-granted privileges, like upkeep and other material benefits which are merely the doling out of largesse taken from their fellows. These claims are to the "right" to be given someone else's fish, not to the right to be left alone to do one's own fishing.

Non-American cultural traditions typically embody a peasanty, servile and simple view of life. A "Do what you're told" and "Go along and get along" view. Many have had genuinely admirable heroes of one kind or another rise up within them nonetheless, of course. But very few have American-style heroism as the core concept around which all their legal, political and philosophical traditions and institutions are constructed.

SADLY, IT IS THE WAY OF THINGS that shortsightedness is also easy, and taking the long view is hard. Thus, where other cultural traditions are well-represented, offering easy-path answers to challenges where the American culture would require hard ones, the pressure is toward the bottom.

Over time, the typical easy-answer cultural paradigm will overwhelm the exceptional hard-answer paradigm. Over time, America will become merely typical-- just one amongst all the rest in the new world order whose heritage of liberty secured by a Constitutionally-limited government of the people is subsumed and outvoted and kicked into the dust-bin of history by the majority of what will then be her peers.

I don't want that. Accordingly, I don't want 'open borders'.

INSTEAD, I WANT strictly-controlled immigration, in small, assimilable numbers, favoring applicants from places with legal/political/philosophical traditions whose roots are most akin to those of our own. I don't care one little bit about race, ethnicity, religion or geography per se-- no one should be declined or disfavored for such considerations, and no one should be admitted or favored for them, either.

But "diversity" of cultural tradition SHOULD be disfavored, and the expectation upon the admittance of any immigrant should be that whatever foreign legal/political/philosophical tradition is brought with them will be burned away into nothingness, and 100% replaced with our own, as expeditiously as possible. This applies equally to refugees, seekers of political asylum and work-visa applicants as well as those seeking permanent residency or citizenship.

Immigrants of any kind (and their kids) can dress how they want, celebrate the holidays they want, and live in enclaves, if they want. None of that bothers me at all. But they must speak and read English, so they can partake of, and participate in, our entire tradition in all its depth, and they must adhere to the principles and practices of law, politics and philosophy that make up that tradition.

FINALLY, TO ADDRESS THE LEGAL QUESTIONS, everyone has complete liberty to move about the world as they can and will generally, and no one has the right or valid authority to hinder them. But no one has the right to move on or across someone else's property.

Leaving the arguments about the rightness or wrongness of ancient claims of land ownership to late-night hair-splitting sessions in college dorm rooms where they belong, the several states of the USA have delegated to the United States authority over the hairline ribbon of property making up the border of the aggregated whole. The United States is thus properly equipped to dictate who crosses that border, and under what conditions.

No valid legal principle obstructs strict limits to immigration volumes, and strict and discriminatory control over who is allowed in. Very good philosophical and practical reasons support such limits and controls. They should be implemented.

-Peter E. Hendrickson