Tuesday, July 19, 2016

This Blog is Pro-Immigration*

*With caveats. See below.

Yes, you read the post title correctly.

I've been pro-immigration for as long as I can remember. Initially my views came out of my commitment to libertarianism - small l and big L.

The libertarian position on immigration is both utilitarian and rights based: The utilitarian argument is that, all thing being equal, free movement of peoples benefits everyone. That doesn't mean it will benefit every single person at every moment. But in the long run more people will have a greater chance of being better off than if it were restricted. In essence, the libertarian argument for the free movement of peoples is the same as that for the free movement of goods and services, otherwise known as a free market. 

The rights based argument is that people have a prima facie right to travel to or from wherever they want, and to live wherever they want (at least within the boundaries set by their own financial resources). Thus, again all things being equal, the state should not interfere with that right. If freedom doesn't at least include the right of free movement, it's not clear what it does mean.

Ironically it was a British Labour politician from the first half of the twentieth century, Ernest Bevin, who gave one of the best rough definitions of freedom I've ever seen.
Freedom means being able to get on a train at Victoria Station and go wherever you damn well want without giving an explanation to anyone.
I like that.

And I would add to it: if you want to bring your family and a few suitcases along for the ride and then, upon arrival, decide to stay, that's okay too.

I can't count the number of times I have been called a racist or a fascist or "against diversity." Whatever my other faults, those things are not among them. Diversity, as to peoples and cultures, should be one of civilization's highest values. And Chicago, where I currently live, is a wonderful example of it. So is (or was) London, where I lived for two years, or Boston, where I grew up.  One of the reasons I'm against Islam is because it's one of the most anti-diverse forces in existence.

But I'm jumping the gun.

When I became a Catholic seven years ago, I was happy to discover that my pro-immigration sympathies were confirmed by my new faith. And I'm not referring to the post-Vatican II highly-politicized "liberal" Catholicism, but the real thing.

In Catholic tradition, one of the Four Sins that Cries to Heaven for Vengeance is "the plight of the alien." That's right, in general, supporting people who wish to better their lives by moving to a new country is commanded by God. Or so I would claim, based on my understanding of the traditional position. 

I'm serious about the implications of this. I don't think people have the right to, say, insulate their profits, income or status by lobbying their national government to bar immigrants from competing with them. Nor do I think the state has the duty or right to bar immigration on the grounds of protecting ethnic or cultural "identity," simply for the sake of it.

Christ put people first, not nations or governments.

If you disagree, that's fine. I'm not making a systematic argument here. I'm just laying out my position.

However, here are some caveats or rather, additional considerations as to why being "pro-immigration" does not mean being in favor of completely unregulated or open borders in all circumstances and at all times:
  1. The state has the right and responsibility to make sure immigration is orderly. I suppose if there was a risk of disease or similar, it should do what is necessary to address that. Such was famously the case at Ellis Island earlier in this country's history. It is also not an overly burdensome imposition on liberty for the state to in some way track or register who is coming in.
  2. The provision of state provided "welfare" complicates things. If someone wants to come from China and, say, open a restaurant (with their own money) selling americanized Chinese food, then that's fine. But if they come from China and are then provided with free medical care, schooling, welfare benefits and the rest, perhaps out of a fund which, say, I've been paying into for my entire life, that may not be fine. People have a right to travel but not a right to be subsidized by others upon reaching their destination. In many historical cases this consideration has been a moot point. If the welfare benefits are small enough and/or the new immigrants are "hard working" enough, it doesn't really matter. But it's always going to be an empirical question as to whether immigrants "put money in" or "take money out" of the state coffers or the economy as a whole. If the answer is negative, then that may have consequences for how "open" immigration should therefore be.
  3. Immigration should not be a vehicle for state aggression - obvious or implicit - or individual aggression. States should not be able to dump "undesirables" or criminals on their neighbors. More obviously, immigration should not be used as disguised warfare. Thus, France and the Low Countries had no obligation to welcome Nazi "immigrants" from Germany in 1940. And that would apply whether the "immigrants" were wearing uniforms and driving tanks or coming with families and suitcases. In the same way, criminals have no absolute right to travel to practice their criminality. And this would apply whether they are being supported by a particular state or are simply "freelancers." Which brings us to 4, or, as it were, the elephant in the room:
  4. Supporting tolerance and freedom is not a death pact that should allow freedom and tolerance to be destroyed by others. Being pro-immigration flows from one's commitment to tolerance and freedom. But by the same token, if there is good evidence that immigration will have a negative effect on those values - because, say, a critical mass of immigrants of a particular group or among those who profess certain beliefs are either indifferent or hostile to them - then that's a prima facie reason to restrict immigration, at least for that group. Let's continue this discussion outside of the numbers.
I'm obviously taking about Islam - not Muslim people per se but Islam as an ideology.

If I thought Islam was simply about worshipping a God whose name started with "A," wearing a hajib and eating sweets for Eid, then I wouldn't care one way or another. Undoubtedly this is how many Westerners perceive Islam. Unfortunately, their perception is wrong.

Islam is a lot more than a few quaint customs. The goal of Islam as an ideology - as explicitly expressed in the Koran, the collected sayings of Muhammed and Islamic history and tradition - is to instantiate, by whatever means necessary, Islamic rule on everyone - a rule that would be intolerant and unfree.

To put it mildly.

And there is little wiggle room with, as it were, the nasty bits of the religion. Islam claims that the Koran was dictated directly by God. And Muhammad's status as God's prophet gives his pronouncements a permanent validity second only to God's. If you try to jettison the bad parts - particular pronouncements of God or Muhammed - you're essentially saying that Islam is false. A "reformed" Islam wouldn't be Islam.  

Some people believe that since the values of an open society - tolerance, freedom and the rest - are obviously (so they believe) a sort of historical end point for social evolution, then even if there are those who "may not quite be there yet," living within an open society will cause them to assimilate to those values or at least assimilate close enough to them.

I used to think that.

I don't anymore - at least when it comes to Islam.

It might be true with really small numbers. More to the point, if the numbers are small enough, it might not be noticeable that assimilation is not happening. And of course if the numbers are small enough, it might not matter anyway.

But as we're now seeing in Europe, and if we had been alert to it, as we could have already seen in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Islam doesn't assimilate away when brought into contact with other sets of values. Instead it defends itself and if possible, pushes back as hard as it can the other way.

It may lie passive for a while, especially if the numbers are small or if it is targeted by, say an aggressive nationalism or secularism as in Turkey, but the ideology itself doesn't change. And the current resurgence of Islam in Turkey after generations of quasi-repression is a good example of that.

Islam can't change. But can Muslims change? Certainly many have. Millions of Muslims all over the world have become Christians or atheists or Muslims-in-name-only who eat sweets for Eid. The problem is that for a number of reasons the general trend seems to be in the other direction.

And this is just as true for Muslims in majority non-Muslim countries. For example, polls show that among Muslims in Europe, it's the younger generation that is the most "extreme" when it comes to support for sharia and all the rest. Muslims in Europe aren't assimilating; they're gathering strength.

Islam is one hardy meme. It has a built in defense mechanism. After it "takes you over," if you then succeed in expelling it, the meme tells other Muslims to kill you.

For anyone who really values tolerance and freedom, restricting Muslim immigration is a no-brainer. Those who support Muslim immigration have put themselves squarely in opposition to the values of Western Civilization, unwillingly or willingly.

They're not pro-freedom. They've become de facto enemies of it.

A plaque inside the Statue of Liberty contains these lines from the poem "The New Colossus":
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Liberty isn't going to lift her lamp for those who want to stifle our freedoms. And neither should we.

Immigration should be supported.

Muslim immigration should not be.


  1. Your post is one of, if not the, best analysis I have ever run across with regard to immigration. I especially appreciate how your analysis faithfully incorporates a traditional Catholic perspective. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, I appreciate that. I assume some Catholics would disagree with my interpretation of one of the Sins that Cry to Heaven. Unlike, say, Catholic economic or social theory, where, among other things, there are a number of early encyclicals to refer to, there doesn't seem to be much on immigration or the "right" to move or travel - either from the pro or the con sides. Of course, I might be wrong on this.

  2. I dunno, I've long wondered how and why multiculturalism got to be such a highly vaulted value. It's proponents always sound so self-congratulatory, from what hell did this value come? It's elevation as the highest value seems contemporary and contrived, and I think it's hard to look at it objectively anymore, we are all so brainwashed by the culture.
    Personally I don't see anything wrong with any culture confined within their own geographic borders to decide they want to keep their culture and they understand that to allow massive amounts of non-members of that culture to infiltrate, is naturally going to dilute the culture they want to maintain. I mean, it's only sensible, anecdotally we know it's true, and I can't see anything wrong with it at all. You want to be French? Move to France. You like the Swiss? Enjoy the culture? Move there. But if the French or Swiss government feels your presence a detraction from their culture for whatever reason, they seem entitled to me to deny you entry, but this is of course at complete odds with the fanatical multiculturalists, or even the incidentally brainwashed, as most of us probably are. We have been instructed so many times that this is an unthinkable position, unfair, bigoted, xenophobic, nationalist, but that doesn't seem necessarily true at all, it sounds like a contemporary value run amuck.
    As far as the world in general, Europe, the US, who knows how many Christians or non-Muslims will have to be slaughtered until the harsh reality is comprehended. Of course we need to think in terms of limiting those who follow Islam, and lots of other things are eventually going to have to be on the table before we are done. Probably some well-placed somebodies families will have to be affected first. But sooner or later it will dawn, that we are in a fight for our lives, and these imbeciles, these insane multiculturalists, have allowed the means of our destruction inside the gates. For the US, the upcoming election is going to determine if the US will take the same suicidal route as has Europe. Everything is on the line for this particular election. If Hillary Clinton is elected, it is over. The "never Trump" people need to comprehend if they fail to vote for Donald Trump, we will have unlimited Muslim immigration into the US.
    There is no sensible rationale for throwing open the gates to Islam given what we have all seen and what history should have taught us.
    I love my Catholic faith, but if Catholicism teaches that we should allow ourselves to be killed by invaders, then Catholicism is a dumb religion and I wouldn't follow it further. I don't think that is the case. I think Catholicism has been hijacked and taken prisoner and many of us are so thoroughly confused we have lost the use of logic and sound reason. It is now hard to be objective given how indoctrinated we all are. That we have relentless and daily attacks, barbaric and savage, completely unmerciful and horrific, yet are still debating immigration, says we are that confused and it is going to take a great deal more to convince us.
    How tragic. God help us.

  3. I'm sympathetic with the cultural identity point but I think it's more complex and/or subtle than many think. And to this quasi-libertarian Catholic it's often not as much a case of "the nation" wanting to preserve its "identity' as much as it is one group of people imposing their preferences on another because, for whatever reason, they have more political power.

    To give a crude example, suppose you want to open a McDonalds in a French town. You're presumably only going to do that if there's a market for it - if there is a critical mass of French people who, whatever their other cultural preferences, occasionally want to munch a cheap American-style cheeseburger. Now, should another group of French people - the French people who are just bugged even THINKING that some French man or woman is somewhere enjoying a Big Mac - be allowed to impose their preferences on the others through the mechanism of government? I'm not so sure.

    And of course, all cultures are always evolving, partly due to other "outside" influences. This may be for the better or for the worse, granted. But it's not clear to me that government is any better than the market at "controlling" or guiding this process.

    Of course, as you point out and as I argue in the post, the spread of Islam (or any other totalitarian ideology) is a different sort of problem.

  4. Well that's a good point too, who gets to say what is authentically "French" and what isn't. Tough to say. But it doesn't seem terrible to imagine a limit on immigration for the purpose of maintaining the general culture. I believe the US once determined immigration based on what was good for the nation. I also don't see anything wrong with that, but it doesn't seem as if that is the main consideration now. Now immigration is thought of in terms of rescuing people and not what is good for a nation. Immigration from nations with compatible general values, such as to the US from South American nations, can be considered an asset in some ways since Americans do not produce enough children (it is said) to even replace themselves. (I think the Total Fertility Rate is 1.8.) Given the huge drain on services for immigrants that may be a wash, but when we talk about bringing in people whose values are not compatible, in fact, people who have demonstrated they are serious about replacing our judicial and cultural system with their own, and killing us with abandon in the process, we're in the realm of a disconnect with reality, and in no sense whatsoever can this be said to be a rational thing to do.

  5. Very good Oakes. I agree. Ours is a Christian nation build on belief in God, personal freedom and self control based on Biblical teaching. Only those folks willing to subscribe to these values should be allowed to immigrate.