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The Hereditary Aristocracy of Citizenship

We pride ourselves on having abolished the hereditary privileges once associated with aristocracy. But our citizenship system replicates many of the same evils.

A US passport. The privileges associated with it are available only to citizens, and citizen status is largely hereditary.A US passport. The privileges associated with it are available only to citizens, and citizen status is largely hereditary.

Citizens of modern Western nations like to think that we have abolished the hereditary privileges once associated with aristocracy. No longer does a person born a noble enjoy a vast array of rights denied to commoners. Nor do we any longer have a class of serfs tied to the land, condemned to poverty and oppression for life. But, as conservative columnist Rachel Lu points out in an insightful recent article, we have a system of hereditary privilege that in many ways is just as pernicious as the aristocracy of old. We call it citizenship:

We like to think we've transcended this kind [of] elitism. Here in America, we prioritize content of character, not circumstances of birth. In this country, your fortunes depend on what you can do, not on some inherited pedigree.

That, at any rate, is our national myth. Unfortunately, it's not really true, in this nation or any other. Democratic ideals may have swept the globe so totally that even totalitarians now pay lip-service to them, yet our world is in some respects more ruthlessly class-divided than ever. I'm not talking here about the 1 percent, or the 9.9 percent, or whatever percentage we see as inheriting systemic advantages from their well-heeled parents. I'm talking about citizenship.

Citizenship represents the most significant class lottery remaining in the modern world. The cover of your passport speaks volumes about your prospects for enjoying peace, prosperity, and happiness over the course of your life. If you are the offspring of Danes, you can likely look forward to eight peaceful and happy decades, with a good education and quality medical care. Were you born in Haiti? In that case, you may get 65 years, but you'll probably spend them coping with grinding poverty (at about 1/30th the income of an average American). If you were born in North Korea, accept my compliments for even managing to read these words.

Citizenship, in short, is massively consequential, and there's almost nothing meritorious about it. If you've spent your life as an American citizen, your fortunes have depended to a very great extent on an inherited pedigree. Even if you're brilliant and full of entrepreneurial energy, those qualities probably wouldn't have helped you as a citizen of Burundi or Niger. It's hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when there's virtually nowhere to go.

For most people, citizenship status determines where you are allowed to live and work, which in turn largely determines not only your economic fate, but often whether you will have protection for even very minimal human rights. And citizenship itself is largely determined by birth - much like membership in old-time aristocracies. If you were not born a US citizen or a close relative of one, there is very little chance you will ever be allowed to emigrate here. For most others, the so-called "line" they must join is either nonexistent or likely to be decades or centuries long. The same point applies to your chances of emigrating to just about any other advanced liberal democracy. A few countries have established a "right of return" for members of the majority ethnic group within that nation, such as Germany for ethnic Germans, and Israel for Jews. But this, too, is a kind of hereditary privilege, albeit based on race or ethnicity rather than family.

Like traditional aristocracy, the new aristocracy of citizenship is not a totally hermetically sealed class. Just as a commoner could sometimes join the nobility by marrying an aristocrat, so a foreigner can become eligible for American citizenshp by marrying a current citizen. And just as kings and emperors would sometimes elevate to the nobility those commoners they considered especially deserving (or especially useful), so modern governments sometimes grant residency rights (and the opportunity for eventual citizenship) to particular classes of migrants without family connections to current citizens, such as workers in certain professions. These exceptions to the rule of hereditary privilege are important. But they are still exceptions to a general rule that keeps the vast majority "in their place."

One notable difference between the new and old aristocracy, is that entry into the former is often open to certain types of refugees - usually those fleeing oppression targeting them on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or political views. I myself am a lucky beneficiary of this system. But these categories still exclude the vast majority of people suffering from oppression and poverty, including all those who are "merely" victims of generalized oppression by authoritarian governments, rather than specific targeting based on prohibited characteristics. And even the exceptions for the "right" type of refugee, have cruel and ridiculous exceptions of their own, such as the one that bars people enslaved by terrorists on the theory that their forced labor qualifies as providing "material support" for a terrorist organization.

Both old-style aristocracy and the modern aristocracy of citizenship forced many people into poverty and oppression based largely on circumstances of birth. And, in their heyday, both systems commanded widespread support because they were seen as just a "natural" part of life that most people took for granted. But, in reality, both types of hereditary privilege were not naturally occurring facts of the world, but rather were (and are) enforced by large-scale government coercion. In the case of the system currently enforced by the US and other Western nations, that coercion includes such tactics as confining refugees in cruel detention camps, deporting people to places where they are likely to be abused or killed, and forcibly separating children from their parents.

Today, we are repulsed by our ancestors who thought that it was perfectly normal - and unavoidable - that lords enjoyed an array of privileges denied to commoners and serfs. But few question our own hereditary privileges. For most of us, our doubts are limited to qualms about the more extreme tactics that keep those privileges in place, as in the case of the current controversy over family separation at the border.

It took centuries to (largely) eliminate traditional hereditary aristrocracy. It is unlikely that we can quickly do away with its modern successor. But there is much we can do to reduce the harm it causes. Broadly speaking, that can be accomplished either by broadening access to citizenship, or by reducing the extent of the privileges associated with citizen status. If citizenship no longer determined where you are allowed to live and work, to the extent it does today, its hereditary nature would be far less oppressive. Such a step would actually bring us closer to the system that prevailed in the US for the first century of our history (until the racially motivated Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), and for most non-Asian immigrants until the 1920s. Alternatively, we can make citizenship easier to obtain for people who don't have family or ethnic connections to current citizens of advanced Western nations. The best path forward might potentially be some combination of both approaches.

Obviously, there are a variety of practical objections to these sorts of reforms. I cannot begin to address them all in this post, though I have considered many of the major ones elsewhere (e.g. here and here); see also this excellent analysis by economist Bryan Caplan. It is worth remembering that defenders of traditional hereditary aristocracy also argued that the sky would fall if there was no longer a privileged aristocratic class at the top of society, one capable of maintaining order, perpetuating civilization, and keeping the rabble in their place.

At the very least, we should recognize that our modern-day aristocracy of citizenship has much in common with traditional hereditary aristocracy, and often perpetrates comparably grave injustice. That recognition might stimulate greater consideration of ways to alleviate these wrongs, while mitigating potential negative side effects of doing so. Most members of the modern aristocratic class might actually benefit from a reduction of their privileges, by tapping into some of the immense new wealth likely to be created through freer migration.

The struggle against the injustice of our modern version of aristrocratic privilege is likely to be long and difficult. But the first step in the right direction is recognizing that a serious problem exists.

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  • Sanctimonica||

    The only way borderlessness would work would be if there were something like worldwide free trade in nationality, where every human is free -- absolutely free -- to live in whatever borderless nation (as all would be) he or she chooses, under its system of government. Otherwise, this is nonsense. The USA (or Croatia, or Uruguay, or, or, or) does not exist to serve the entire global population of humans.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The open border people are probably socialists wanting to tear the USA down or anarchists wanting no government at all.

    Either way, destroying the great American ideal of determining our own rules and destiny is what some people like to do.

  • Blargrifth||

    Do you not notice the irony of accusing "open border people" as socialists? These anti-immigration arguments come straight from Karl Marx, who was likely the first person to articulate a position against immigration in terms of its economic impact. Like the rest of Marxist philosophy, this argument has been empirically and theoretically destroyed.

  • James Solbakken||

    "Do you not notice the irony of accusing "open border people" as socialists? These anti-immigration arguments come straight from Karl Marx, who was likely the first person to articulate a position against immigration in terms of its economic impact."

    So, what you're saying is, borders are Marxist? Along the lines of the lobsters, I suppose?

    I bet if you think real hard you'll figure out why so many people hate the guts of what passes for "libertarians" these days.

    I was a libertarian because I believe in free speech and free press and the right to keep and bear arms and private property and strictly limited government. I never gave those things up when I gave up being a big "L" Libertarian, because I never saw the connection between moral liberty and the necessity of open borders and unlimited migration. Yes, I admit, I never bought in to the "Anarchy" interpretation of "libertarianism."

    Now I'm a little more clear in my own mind what I believe in, which is a sort of Nationalist Libertarianism, where each Nation gets to work out their own idea and ideal of Liberty for themselves without having anything imposed on them by Globalist scumbags.

  • Blargrifth||

    A nationalist libertarian? So what you are saying is that you are a collectivist individualist. In other words, a very confused person.

  • Don Nico||

    not only legally free to move, but with the means to make arbitrary moves!

    Somin's concept is not even idealism. It is just his fantasy.

  • Dan S.||

    People are legally free to move from state to state within the United States, but many may not have the financial resources to do so. The same would apply in a world where the borders between (nation-) states were analogous to the borders between states of the U.S. No one would be entitled to a free ticket on an airliner crossing the ocean just because he wanted to move, for example.

  • MaverickNH||

    It's just as fortuitous that immigrants South of the Border can walk or drive across into the USA as opposed to those elsewhere in the world who are too far away to do so. And once in the USA the former immigrants are subject to some protections by US law and may obtain aid in form of food, shelter, medical care, education, gainful employments, etc., legally or illegally. Why should proximity determine destiny if birth should not?

    But all fine words aside, there's just not enough to go around, unless everyone here agrees to have so much less so many more can have some. And keep working to give it to them. It's all quite selfish I'll agree. But there is nothing stopping those who want to give more of their earnings to others right now. Except their selfish concern that they shouldn't have to give if everyone doesn't give. And if everyone doesn't want to give that we'll just have to take it from them. Because you think it's right - you know it's right.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    But all fine words aside, there's just not enough to go around, unless everyone here agrees to have so much less so many more can have some.

    Immigrants could provide a severely needed benefit to America's struggling communities, introducing entrepreneurship, motivation, ambition, education, and the like to communities hobbled by disaffection, depletion, and ignorance. The general preference in our can't-keep-up communities for insularity is highly likely to be counterproductive, and aggravates the increasing disparities between our modern, accomplished communities and our shambling, backward areas.

  • The original jack burton||

    Immigrants are quite welcome here. Legally.

    And it is quite within reason for the government to decide just where to draw the line based upon its understanding of what the nation needs at that particular point.

    And by the way, Artie, have you ever noticed the great similarities between you and the local KKK member? Aside from manner of dress and who you choose to hate, there is a great deal of overlap.

  • David Nieporent||

    And it is quite within reason for the government to decide just where to draw the line based upon its understanding of what the nation needs at that particular point.

    Most conservatives claim to believe (or at least used to claim to believe) that central planning was a failed idea. Politicians and bureaucrats are not competent to determine what the nation's needs are at a particular point. (And, indeed, "the nation" doesn't have collective needs; individual people and individual businesses have needs.)

  • Onslow||

    Unless you're Homeless in Seattle. Then, you'll receive a plane ticket to leave Seattle.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Somin is right, it is a lottery that carries with it immense privileges or immense consequences. Is it fair? No. But neither is life.

    Look around at all the buildings with all the paper pushers as you drive to work. Are they creating wealth? Where does wealth come from? For every single one of those paper pushers there are likely dozens of Third Worlders shoveling dirt out of a cave to mine some iron that will go in the car of the paper pusher or harvesting coffee so the paper pusher can drink his morning joe.

    Is Somin or the paper pusher willing to relinquish his 9 to 5 with paid vacation and sick days so he can spread the love to said Third Worlder? Is he willing to lower his standard of living and the standard of living for his offspring to help give the Third Worlder a step up? Or is all he is willing to provide vacuous words and strongly worded denunciations for people who JUST DO NOT CARE!! More wealth will not magically be created to instantly pull the standard of living up for Third Worlders so where will it come from?

    If you are not willing to sacrifice anything why bother with the words?

  • ||

    That's just it. Every "refugee" or "asylum seeker" that we generously allow to stay lowers our standard of living. You allow enough to do it, and our standard of living is lowered drastically.

  • Blargrifth||

    If "our standard of living" refers to the collective average of all individuals in this country, why should this been seen as a problem? Even if it lowers the whole, it does not impact the discrete standard of living for any individual who lives here. You are envisioning losses that do not exist.

  • ||

    That makes absolutely no sense. It absolutely does impact the discrete standard of living for individuals. Putting aside non-financial measures like congested cities, low skill, low IQ immigrants require huge financial subsidies. The only way that doesn't impact standard of living of individuals is if we could borrow indefinitely. That isn't going to be true forever.

  • Lee Moore||

    "Our standard of living" clearly referred to that of the old population (those who were already here) not the new (the old population plus the asylum seekers), since "our" references the "we" who are "generously allowing" asylum seekers to stay. So if the average standard of living (of the old population) is lowered as a result of the admission of asylum seekers, then the discrete standard of living for some members of the old population must fall. Because math.

    I suspect you (Blargrifth) are trying to say that if the average falls, it is the average for the new population, because of the addition of refugess and asylum seekers with a low standard of living, and that the average for the old population does not fall. Which is an interesting speculation, but not what was postulated in the post you were replying to.

  • Blargrifth||

    The post to which I replied accuses refugees of lowering "our" (implying those of us living here) standard of living, whereas I say that they do not touch my personal standard of living so I have no reason to care about reduction in the national average standard of living.

  • ||

    Do you think you're going to be immune?

  • Lee Moore||

    I appreciate that you're only concerned with your own affairs and you have concluded that asylum seekers arent going to affect your standard of living. This is quite conceivable even in the context of a falling average.

    But that's not the same as your original claim, which was that a lower average wouldn't impact anybody's standard of living.

    That claim remains mathematically troubled.

  • Jmaie||

    "whereas I say that they do not touch my personal standard of living so I have no reason to care about reduction in the national average standard of living."

    Only if your personal standard of living is unaffected by higher taxes, increased traffic, school crowding, strain on the healthcare system...

  • Blargrifth||

    You are making the mistake of overlooking the demand side of the equation while emphasizing entirely the supply side. People are more than consumers of public money. They are also contributors and are more likely to contribute more than their marginal share of public services.

    We can see this clear correlation at the municipal level. Cities that have trouble sustaining their population tend to have rising taxes to make up for the decreasing base, while cities that grow in population enjoy lower taxes.

  • FlameCCT||

    However people that would lower the average standard of living would not be contributors to an increase of the tax base.

  • Blargrifth||

    So who gets to make speculations regarding those who may not be contributors? What gives the government access to the knowledge that would justify these speculations, and why should we trust them to behave correctly? There is no reason to believe that bureaucrats and politicians are better equipped to make these decisions than the market. Following your logic, why should we not also allow the government to regulate wage rates and food supplies and any other form of capital distribution? It amazes me how in the 21st century there are still people who advocate centralized planning of the economy.

  • JoeBlow123||

    You make the same mistake Marxists do in assuming everything is related to the economy, to see individuals as only labor inputs.

    In a society of free citizens, individuals are definitely more than labor inputs. You miss this unfortunately.

  • DavidTaylor||

    It would be easy to quibble with the rather hyperbolic claim about "every refugee or asylum seeker" -- Albert Einstein was a refugee, as were many other scientists, artists, writers, etc. -- but the more general point might be that our standard of living is the product of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants, both legal and illegal. It's also worth mentioning the reverse historicism here: that poor refugee from Burma might not appear to offer much today, but his or her children are likely to be your doctor in 20 years. I'm not sure that asylum seekers and refugees are a significant threat when it comes to our standard of living.

  • CE||

    But removing uneconomical restrictions on free movement of labor would make people on average richer, not poorer.

    Some "paper pushers" would undoubtedly be displaced by more talented and harder working immigrants. Are you afraid of a little competition?

    And who says "paper pushers" don't create wealth? Someone has to be paying them for the value they create.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "1) But removing uneconomical restrictions on free movement of labor would make people on average richer, not poorer.

    2) Some "paper pushers" would undoubtedly be displaced by more talented and harder working immigrants. Are you afraid of a little competition?

    3) And who says "paper pushers" don't create wealth? Someone has to be paying them for the value they create."

    1) So they say. Economists say a lot of things, most of it complete bullshit divorced from reality.
    2) I am not afraid of competition, I know the stakes and the kind of world we live in now. I cannot say the same for some of the people I know and some of the people I grew up with. My undereducated cousins subsisting with a good job because no one is their to undercut their wages. How do you think they will react? Probably be pissed.
    3) I am sure some create wealth. I am sure an equal amount only receive the wages they receive because our average wage level is pretty high and they leech of the high average.

  • Randall Fox||

    This is my first post here, and a serious question. If the USA actually makes open borders the law and applies the Constitution to all comers, what is to stop a foreign country (China, for example) from loading 2 million troops on ships and landing in Los Angeles? Wouldn't this just be new residents exercising their 2nd Amendment rights? What about the follow up waves of 10 million troops and 50 million civilians? How about another 10 million troops and 200 million civilians? Then could they just vote themselves into power and found Western China?

  • lulz farmer||

    Except we all know what would happen were that the case -- the third world would swamp and outpopulate the first world, and then everywhere would be shit. This is just an attempt to abolish the nation state.

    Nations are a people who hold territory. Not a territory with a random collection of people.

  • QuantumBoxCat||

    I'm trying to image what kind of a society would not have a problem of "hereditary privilege," in the most general sense of that term. If I start with a clean slate and assume the existence of two small societies occupying different parts of the planet, unless they are mirror images of each other then an individual born in one will be more or less privileged than an individual born in the other. That's without even acknowledging that members of society 1 may subjectively view society 2 as "better" while members of society 2 view society 1 as "better." I get that this broad "aristocratic citizenship" is just the launching-off point for smaller argument regarding immigration policy, but I'm not sure it's a useful starting point. Assuming even the basic unit, the family, a child born in one is going to be more privileged than a child born in another, unless - again - they are perfectly equal in every sense of the word. But even then, one family may have "better" genes than the other family, and thus we have a genetic aristocracy!

    I'll have to ponder this one a bit more. If the central point you were trying to make was about contemporary immigration policy, well then you shouldn't have led with such an enormous claim that requires its own focus.

  • Sanctimonica||

    Wouldn't every society that allows private ownership of property and for intergenerational transfers of that property suffer from this problem of heredity privilege?

  • Lee Moore||

    And parents. Allowing parents to bring up their children can advantage the children to a scandalous extent. Europe has gone a bit further than the US in trying to clamp down on this kind of rank nepotism, where homeschooling is strongly discouraged (actually illegal in Germany, courtesy of the Fuehrer and never repealed.)

    My recollection was that the Soviet Union was also quite keen on the concept of state-as-parent but Somin got out as a small child. A bet he had loads of hereditary privilege from those selfish parents of his.

  • Ben_||

    Idealogically-driven mass social engineering historically hasn't actually remedied injustice, has it?

    That tends to make non-true-believers skeptical of such projects.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yes, I don't think he quite realizes just how radical a position he's staking out here, or whose company he's headed toward.

    Ironically, he's actually making a profound case for restrictive immigration: Here he is, escaped from communism, theoretically a libertarian, communism's diametrical opposite. And yet the pre-logical premises of the culture he was born in seem to be dragging him, unrealizingly, home. Ever so gradually he's becoming what he fled.

  • AmosArch||

    His entire argument is give out citizenship freely to anyone because its 'fair' which is pretty much is communism at its logical conclusion.

  • Lee Moore||

    It's going to be difficult to allow genes in a world without hereditary privilege. Those'll probably have to go.

  • lulz farmer||

    I'm sure someone with this kind of viewpoint is all for allowing government (small one, of course!) to mandate gene redistribution through forced miscegenation policy.

  • FlameCCT||

    Genes? We don't need no stinking genes nor the science behind it! Just ask anyone that self identifies as a different gender than the one that came from those stinking genes. ;-)

  • CE||

    Sounds like the author wants a 100% estate tax....

  • Bubba Jones||

    Epic trolling.

    Up next is the 100% estate tax and how I learned to stop worrying and love 100M Mexican immigrants.

  • BillyG||

    Don't forget 300M Chinese immigrants. Also all on welfare.

  • perlchpr||

    Honestly, I don't think the "on welfare" part even matters. Yes, it would have some effect on the date of the final collapse, but if you double the population of the country with people who have no tie to the culture, and very strong ties to another culture, America is doomed either way.

  • Paloma||

    What do you think happened with the Louisiana Purchase?

  • Lee Moore||

    Worked very well for the immigrants. Not so much for the folk who were already there.

  • CE||

    Napolean sold Jefferson land he didn't really own.

  • perlchpr||

    The land area of the country was far more than doubled.

    Is that ever going to happen again?

    No. No it's not.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We pride ourselves on having abolished the hereditary privileges once associated with aristocracy. But our citizenship system replicates many of the same evils.

    I see the Volokh is pushing the same anti-American nonsense as many Reason writers do.

    Socialists love to destroy what America's great: Being a free American with the ability to participate in our own fate. We, as Americans, want like-minded freedom loving immigrants. We don't need immigrants for the sake of having immigrants.

    Furthermore, what is the amount of people the USA "needs" to finally be taken seriously? Many of our highways and roads are packed in many metro areas. We have a great trading economy with ~310M people in the USA because we can always trade with other countries.

  • Don Nico||

    More open borders nonsense from Somin.

    By the way citizenship was a big deal thousands of years ago, not just since Somin's grandparents were born.

  • The original jack burton||

    Good example from the New Testament when the Apostle Paul appealed his conviction based upon his "privilege" as a Roman citizen living in Israel.

  • Paloma||

    Meant he got to be beheaded, rather than crucified.

  • Ghost on the Highway||

    Bought him a lot of extra time

  • Blargrifth||

    Citizenship =/= Residency

  • Brightly||

    The entire idea of a nation is one of forming and guarding a political consensus, which requires maintaining a bounded population. The problem with your statement is that you don't have to be able to vote to effect the political consensus. This is why a population possesses an inherent right to guard its borders from migrating masses

    We can see this effect in Europe right now where the Eurocrats are entertaining the sensitivities of moslems by systematically suppressing the rights of their citizens. The political consensus is changing in violation of what its citizens desire, and the people of Europe are less safe for it.

    The argument for open boarders is an argument that no people have a right to be secure in their homeland. It argues that migrant populations with a previous tie to the land have a right to upset the political status quo to reshape it, more often than not, to something closer to the conditions they are fleeing from.

  • Blargrifth||

    That is a very conservative, old world definition of nation that was explicitly rejected by the Founders of this country. Notice that the Constitution gives the federal government no authority to regulate immigration.

    Populations do not possess "rights" any more than governments do. Rights are for individuals, and a for a domestic collective to deny human rights to a foreign collective is no more acceptable than for one domestic collective to deny human rights to another.

    Any comparison of our country to immigration in Europe is weaker than comparisons to our own history. These same scary stories about immigrants corrupting the social fabric of America were spread over 100 years ago when Germans, Italians, and Poles were entering the country at a higher rate than immigrants enter today. It turns out that those scary stories were simply xenophobic hysteria and had no basis in fact.

  • Blargrifth||

    Open borders is not an argument regarding security of a homeland. It is an argument for a free market economy and a liberal interpretation of human rights. It is an argument of keeping the government out of regulations and social engineering that only lead to crony capitalism and bloated bureaucracies.

    Having a romantic connection to your arbitrarily drawn patch of dirt on which you were born is no reason to reject the principles that created this country and truly made it great until the first immigration restrictions were enacted in the 1920s, around the same time that the government began to abandon the Constitution in other aspects of policy-making too.

  • AustinRoth||

    I agree with Ilya, in a sense. Let's make citizenship dependent on contribution to the country, via military service.

  • BillyG||

    Starship Troopers! (the Heinlein version, not the terrible movie)

  • Toranth||

    I'm doing my part!

  • Chem_Geek||

    Service guarantees citizenship!

    Would you like to know more?

  • Bubba Jones||

    so only imperialist killers will be citizens?

  • The original jack burton||

    My father-in-law joined the U.S. Navy in 1928 as a brown-skinned foreigner and the best he could hope for was to serve as a steward for the next 20 years. He persevered and got his citizenship in 1948. Today, he has two granddaughters who have graduated from the Air Force Academy and are serving as officers. Perhaps someone should explain to them just how much "privilege" they have, eh.

  • Purple Martin||

    I imagine they already know that, better than most.

  • Ben_||

    Which cult's manifesto is this from?

  • Toranth||

    Let us abolish the hereditary aristocracy of genetics!
    We Americans pride ourselves with having done away with the hereditary privileges once associated with aristocracy. But we allow the hereditary elite with good genes to reserve the special privileges of being smart, good looking, or athletically talented to their offspring.
    Obviously, me must pass Open Legs Laws, so that anyone can have access to those elite genetics!
    /s

    Honestly, I'm surprised Somin only cited himself 9 times in the post. Although half the links were repeats (he used one link four times) so it isn't actually nearly as low a percentage of the total links as it first looks.

  • doshei||

    I used to really enjoy the analysis here ate V C but it is now clear to me that Ilya spent way too much time in the intellectual orbit of the Washington Post.

  • Careless||

    this problem predates the Post move

  • Jmaie||

    Predates, yes, but he didn't really become unhinged until lately. Late 2016, IIRC...

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Trump derangement, not WaPo derangement. Though he might have taken the WaPo's 'reporting' on Trump a little too seriously.

  • Mike22||

    While pure libertarian notions of moral law are fun enough to hear a libertarian type argue, they get a bit more tedious when they're attested as universal truths the way a Catholic might quote church doctrine, but much more so when they are presented as matter of fact, nearly universally held values.

    The worst aspect of Aristocracy was being accountable or at the mercy to/of those above no matter how they got there.

    A great many people value traditions and pageants as the most enjoyable parts of living, whether they be full religious rites, a rodeo, college football games, or that white wedding dress. Quaintly(for the author) many people still see their lives as a continuum of the generations - traditions life affirming and beautiful - with career being a 'sandbox goal' competitive people like to chase for diversion.

    Many see angling and resume stamping as far worse than Aristocracy (although the protocol to get the right fellowship or entry to the elite universities favor-trading assets is a different sort of Aristocracy that some achieve from scratch but greatly aided by parents giving directions and making some phone calls)

    With bots and a shrinking world population (nearly all countries developed countries are), it won't take much human input to meet today's standard of living.
    And the best things beyond the pageantry of traditions are a house on the beach or a bend in a river: greatly aided by a shrinking population.

  • California Dreamer||

    I agree that citizenship is a form of aristocracy that may perpetrate injustice, but it does not necessarily follow that we should adopt an open borders policy. There may be a limit to the number of immigrants that we can realistically absorb. We live in a relatively uncorrupt society where our educational system has inculcated most of our people with democratic and egalitarian values. If we allow unlimited immigration we may end up with a society composed largely of people who do not understand how our democracy is supposed to function. See, e.g., Israel, where a flood of immigrants from the former USSR turned an egalitarian, idealistic society into one that believes in religious persecution and where corruption is far more common. Don't get me wrong -- I think we can take a lot more immigrants than we are currently accepting, I am appalled at the current administration's immigration policy, and I would make citizenship easier to obtain. But I worry that open borders might carry things too far.

  • ||

    Israel believes in religious persecution? We can take a lot more than we're taking? You are deranged.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    California Dreamer might have been thinking of this type of superstition-driven ugliness.

  • bernard11||

    I agree with others that Ilya goes too far here.

    On top of that, there are more immediate issues of hereditary privilege in the US that are worthy of attention.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    One common sign that you've gone off the deep end, is that you can't tell anymore the difference between arguments that might make sense to anybody, and arguments that only someone who already totally agrees with you would take seriously.

    This is the latter.

  • SimonP||

    If you can provide some kind of actual response to Ilya's argument, specifically defending the way we assign so much importance to the simple fact of where a person is born, please feel free to do so.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    So many of the responses here are so laughably incompetent they go beyond even self-parody. Is there a term for someone who so thoroughly misses the point that they repeat as simple fact what the argument calls into question? One commenter thinks that questioning our method of assigning citizenship is tantamount to defying our genetic code. Another worries about spreading wealth too thinly when it's not holed up behind the arbitrary confines of citizenship. It's almost like they're trying to make Ilya's point for him.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Ok, let me explain in detail here, rather than in bits and pieces over the thread.

    The important part of America isn't the land. Sure, nice chunk of continent, with useful resources, but people have done far worse with better starting material.

    The important part of America is the culture. The culture is in the people. You bring in more people, they change the culture.

    Some people will change it for the better, and I thought it was a horrible tragedy that, when Thatcher gave the people of Hong Kong to China, we didn't offer them an escape route; They'd have been a great entrepreneurial infusion.

    But, some people will change it for the worse. People coming from, yes, "hellholes", often bring with them the cultural traits that made those places what they fled. And make America more like the places they fled.

    We've got a very nice country here, a culture a lot of people world-wide want to be part of. But if we throw open the borders, people will flood in from places with incompatible cultures, and America will, fairly quickly, cease to be America. It will just be a place called America, in the same location, but the America we today treasure will be gone, and won't be coming back.

    A lot of countries over history have suffered that fate. Are suffering it today, across the Atlantic. We'd be fools to follow their lead, and disappear into the dusty pages of the history books.

  • SimonP||

    The important part of America is the culture.

    Okay - just plain old white supremacy, then.

    What is the American "culture"? Who's included, and who's excluded? Who decides? Is it the culture that we have now, is it the culture we had fifty years ago, what?

    Your claim is completely vacuous, on its face. You're saying that we shouldn't allow the wrong people into the country, because that would change what the country is, and we can't allow that because what the country is, is just its people. You've specified absolutely no principled basis for deciding who the "right" or "wrong" people and just assume that it's self-evident that it shouldn't be allowed to change, or that it would obviously change the "wrong" way if the "wrong" people are allowed in.

    Stop equivocating, you asshole. What you mean is: America's culture is white, traditionally Protestant Christian, anglophone. We can admit others into that "culture" as long as they mostly assimilate. But if they bring too much of their home "cultures" - and we can for some reason assume that people from "hellholes" are more likely to do that than from certain other nations - then we should exclude them.

    It's white supremacy. That's all that it is.

  • lulz farmer||

    Do whites not have a right to continue their own bloodlines and existence or does or territory existed to be parceled out to an endless stream of foreign people? They get to keep their territory but also get ours, piecemeal. I suppose I'm some kind of "supremist" if I'm against this, though.

  • SimonP||

    Do whites not have a right to continue their own bloodlines...

    No one's suggesting they don't have the right to have kids.

    ...and existence...

    Like, live forever? What are you talking about?

    ...or does or territory existed to be parceled out to an endless stream of foreign people?

    No one's proposing this.

    No, listen, it's easy: someone comes to this country, wanting to make a life for themselves. If they want to buy land and can buy land, maybe they do. If the want to rent a place, they do that instead. No one's redistributing anything. Just letting the free market do its work.

    They get to keep their territory but also get ours, piecemeal. I suppose I'm some kind of "supremist" if I'm against this, though.

    You can be a simple moron, instead, if you'd prefer.

  • lulz farmer||

    Why can't they "make a life for themselves" in their own countries? Why is it up to us to provide that better life if they're truly equal to us in every way as open borders one-world gov SJW-communists like yourself would have us believe? Shouldn't they be able to build their own countries equal to ours?

    This idea that we won't be brutally oppressed by these people once we're a demographic minority in a hyper mass-inclusive democracy that gives these people's vote equal weighting to someone who's ancestors actually built a country is specious at best. Go look at Rhodesia and South Africa to see what will be our likely future if this is allowed to continue.

    At best we'll be a tax-farmed slave class of people continually diminished by the parasitism of this new majority, at worst we'll be slaughtered and run off what little land holdings we have left.

    You don't believe in free markets in the way you claim you do. There is no fair competition going on here. The very fact they're being brought in to begin with is a GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. That they are then given a panoply of advantages over us re: affirmative action and its interaction with migration.

    I don't believe that you don't understand this, either. I think you're just evil.

  • SimonP||

    Why can't they [blah blah blah]

    Simple moron, then. Fine by me.

  • lulz farmer||

    You never had any arguments. Calling someone a moron because they don't buy into your "all human capital is equal and group belongings and interests don't real" isn't an argument, fathead.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "The important part of America is the culture.

    Okay - just plain old white supremacy, then."

    That's not even a mistake, or trouble comprehending, That's flat out bad faith, right there openly displayed.

  • SimonP||

    That's not even a mistake, or trouble comprehending, That's flat out bad faith, right there openly displayed.

    I quite clearly laid out the problems in your dancing around what you really wanted to say, and your choice to throw a tantrum over being called out on it rather than, y'know, engaging, is just another typical move.

    No, I get it. I see you. I see what it is you want. Stop lying to the rest of us.

  • Lee Moore||

    Brett : I thought it was a horrible tragedy that, when Thatcher gave the people of Hong Kong to China, we didn't offer them an escape route; They'd have been a great entrepreneurial infusion.

    And………wait for it…………

    Simon P : It's white supremacy. That's all that it is.

    It's not bad faith, as Brett suggests. It's ideological possession.

  • SimonP||

    It's not bad faith, as Brett suggests. It's ideological possession.

    If you can explain what Brett means by American "culture," and how it determines what kinds of immigration controls we need and are justified, please feel free to contribute to the discussion. Otherwise, I'm not going to pretend you mouthbreathers have anything worth saying.

  • Brightly||

    "Okay - just plain old white supremacy, then."

    This is troll level asinine race-baiting

    "Your claim is completely vacuous, on its face"

    No, yours is. It's simply screaming "Racism! Racism! Racism!!" with a far from sufficient explanation why it must be racism.

    "You're saying that we shouldn't allow the wrong people into the country, because that would change what the country is, and we can't allow that because what the country is, is just its people."

    It's actually a pretty solid reasoning, you just can't see it through your virtue signalling (and there is nothing more vacuous than virtue signalling). Try this as an example, how many Neo Nazis do you think we can allow in this country before the political consensus around civil rights might be reversed? One million? ten million? fifty million?

    Heck, we are seeing that a bump of a few percentage points of Muslims in Europe is turning it into a dangerous place to be Jewish.

    "It's white supremacy. That's all that it is."

    No, you're just mindless SJW without an argument

  • Ben_||

    The idea, I guess, is that the people who created the US and built it up from a wilderness didn't do it for their children and grandchildren. They were just acting as caretakers for the rightful inhabitants of the US: people from Honduras or Nicaragua who refuse to even show enough respect for the country to come here legally.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Haha. Here here!

  • Sanctimonica||

    Well actually, Somin starts from the premise that the nation was built for the builders' children and grandchildren, but he finds that purpose to be immorally aristocratic.

  • Ben_||

    No one here is preventing the people of Honduras or anywhere else from building up their home country like our ancestors built the US up.

    In fact, those other countries have some huge advantages the people of the US never had: they have positive and negative examples to show them what works and what fails.

  • PeteRR||

    Nothing for it then,

    l'état, c'est moi!

  • M.L.||

    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. (Emphasis added).

  • Paloma||

    So? Whose "posterity" are you? How many US citizens are actual descendants of those original thirteen colonies?

  • Ben_||

    I am. What do I win?

    So far, I've won the burden of providing for lots of entitled people who complain endlessly and never utter a word of thanks. And the opportunity to be targeted for alienation by my own country's government institutions (up until January 2017).

  • Onslow||

    I am. It's quite common.

  • Lee Moore||

    It would be interesting to work out what proportion of the population are descendants of the 1788 colonists. That's roughly eight generations, so you'd only need 1 out of 256 great great great great great great grandparents to pass muster and you're in.

  • posmoo||

    My ancestors were invited here by the ancestors of the original colonists. My ancestors didn't sneak across a desert in the middle of the night violating social and legal norms to get theirs.

  • Lee Moore||

    But, as I suggest above, so long as your immigrating ancestors immigrated a couple of generations ago, the chances are that they will have bred with some folk who were already here who had an ancestor from the 1788 colonies. Which means there's an excellent chance that you are now a carrier of the disease and have passed it on to your children (or will do so in due course.)

  • M.L.||

    It doesn't matter one bit, of course, because the purposes of the Constitution are as valid today as they were then, and as such this applies equally to newly minted citizens who should wish to be considered part of "we the people."

    Anyway, I have no idea, but a relative of one of my grandparents is into genealogy and sent me copies of some pre-Civil War ancestral documents. A grandparent on the other side reports mostly English heritage dating back to early Americans. Another is more recent Dutch immigrant stock.

  • Careless||

    Yep. For someone who says he takes the Constitution seriously, he's being willfully oblivious to its purpose. His open borders fanaticism just destroys him mentally. Can't think rationally.

  • ReaderY||

    I think it's on a whole a good think that Professor Somin has moderated his approach, attempting to appeal to people rather than shame them, and attempting to argue why his principles should be established as norms rather than simply treating them as established norms.

    The principles he articulates are, on the whole, for good or bad, more or less in retreat throughout the Western world.

    In many ways, the old style of argument inhibits a moderate nationalism, a nationalism that doesn't completely forget appeal to universalist principles.

    If one takes the position that any assertion of nationalism of any kind is akin to fascism, then one is essentially saying that anyone with nationalist sympathies might as well join the fascists. It's no more productive than it was for Bernie Sanders supporters to say there was no meaningful difference between Clinton and Trump, or people in the 1930s who said that the the Social Democrats were no different than Hitler.

    If ones attitude is "my way or the highway," one doesn't merely lose influence over where people who take the highway end up. One can end up pushing them even farther away than they'd otherwise go.

  • Laird||

    This is stupid even by Somin's standards.

  • GrasshpperCraig||

    Does reason support a 100% estate tax too? Maybe taking kids away to a kibbutz as well in order to prevent hereditary advantage.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I hope Reason supports taxation of inheritance at a level at least that of taxation of earnings.

  • Brightly||

    Why? That money has already been taxed.

  • posmoo||

    How could you maintain a modicum of liberty in America a world filled with collectivists without a very discerning immigration policy? How come so many libertarians are interested in unilaterally giving away u.s. citizenship when it is the only chip we have to bargain for reciprocal immigration rights for current u.s. citizens? The constant disregard for these serious and obvious problems with open borders libertarian arguments lead me to wonder if there isn't some nefarious ulterior motivation.

  • AmosArch||

    The US is not the line to the basketball machine at your local Chuck E Cheese 'Professor'. There is no automatic entitlement for any random person to a spot in America just because its 'fair'. Its just like how you want potentially dangerous people flooding into in your host country unchecked very much and I'd want a Victoria Secret model very much but we may not necessarily have the right to demand them even if other nations and people get these very easily. A sovereign nation has every right to control and bring in those that will benefit its people and utilize its limited resources most effectively.

    Plus who's to say all 'aristocratic' and 'nativist' notions are automatically bad? I'd trust my daughter to watch my bag at the train station more than some random bum wandering around. Wouldn't you?

  • bernard11||

    I'd trust my daughter to watch my bag at the train station more than some random bum wandering around. Wouldn't you?

    I would. And I'd trust some random bum more than I would trust Donald Trump.

  • Careless||

    It's nice to see that you can drag your TDS into anything

  • WJack||

    To see the result of unlimited immigration take a look at the Native Americans.

  • vek||

    Yup. If you want your whole culture and civilization to be destroyed, open borders is the best way to do it. If you like your civilization, it's best avoided.

  • Michael P||

    I see that Somin literally does not know what the word "aristocracy" means.

  • SimonP||

    I don't know whether to be irritated by your pointless pedantry or relieved that there is at least one critic of Ilya here who isn't behaving like a complete child.

    (You're right, of course, on the meaning of the word "aristocracy," but when's the last time anyone used it in accordance with its "true" meaning?)

  • Ghost on the Highway||

    Recommend Ilya shred his passport as a show of solidarity with the cause.

  • iowantwo||

    Open boarders? Of course that only works of Rights are protected. Like private property ownership. Are we to understand that US Citizens are free to go to any other country with our BoR protections? Everyone thinks it is incumbent on the US to open our boarders, but with no reciprocity? I can envision US citizens taking up in Mexico. Buying whole tracks of land. I never hear anyone talking about demanding other nations allowing the reverse to happen. The only way to have truly open boarders is to have our inalienable rights protected too.

  • Drewski||

    I can tell you're an expert on borders, who's studied the matter carefully and given it much thought, by the way you spell the word differently than the rest of us. You're not some reactionary firing from the hip; no, you're a visionary who is unconstrained by petty considerations such as knowing how to spell or reading the article or giving it a moment's thought before spouting talking points you heard on Fox News.

  • posmoo||

    What a great argument you created. 'You done spelt wrong, Jeb, that means your idea is wrong.' you're being wasted in that basement, we need to get you working on cold fusion.

  • Jmaie||

    " or giving it a moment's thought before spouting talking points you heard on Fox News."

    I'm surprised you didn't use the term "faux news".

  • Lee Moore||

    The metaphor is "shooting from the hip" not "firing from the hip"

    That error of idiom, and his name, makes it very likely that Drewski ia a Russian troll hired by Putin to disrupt the mid term elections, who is working from a small dingy office in Nizhny Novgorod..

    Don't listen to him, people. The Republic is at stake.

  • ||

    America is an idea, a set of principles. It isn't tied to any particular piece of dirt.

    People from other, more benighted, places don't need to come to America to be American, they can simply adopt the principles and cultural attitudes that make America a place so many people desire to make their home.

    That kind of holes this whole aristocracy of citizenship below the waterline, doesn't it?

  • ||

    No, it's not. America is not a propositional nation. It is (or at least, was) a nation of a distinct people with a distinct culture.

  • SimonP||

    ... that has, built right into it, a system of democratic representation expressly designed to accommodate pluralism and diverse senses of what's best for the nation...

  • David Nieporent||

    No, it's a propositional nation.

  • lulz farmer||

    Yes I'm sure when the founding fathers wrote things like "to us and our posterity" they were referring to Somalis and Arabs, and other people not like them who won't be part of their posterity.

  • Careless||

    Being an American is "pernicious"

    You are mentally ill, Somin. Get help.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    This is getting into Harrison Bergeron territory, where it's an offense against equality that parents are allowed to do anything to benefit their own children.

    Prof, the US may be "an idea", but ideas have to be learned, and require supporting premises, many of which may be cultural. Open the borders, and the US culture of freedom will be swept away in a generation or less.

    We benefit the rest of the world by being a good example. But we can't even be that, if all that's American about America gets washed away in a flood of people who don't share our culture. Your vision of open borders is a self-defeating one, ultimately suicidal. And, one of Ayn Rand's key ideas, (She had a few.) was that a moral theory, in order to be valid, has to promote the welfare of those who hold to it, rather than destroying them.

    You're caught up in a dream of moral purity that doesn't care that it leads to its own destruction. And the rest of us aren't going to drink that poisoned cup with you.

  • bernard11||

    And, one of Ayn Rand's key ideas, (She had a few.) was that a moral theory, in order to be valid, has to promote the welfare of those who hold to it, rather than destroying them.

    Is that the best she could do?

    It sounds pretty silly to me. The choice is not between benefits and destruction. It may be between getting a benefit and incurring a cost. Do you think that "I'll do anything I can get away with if it benefits me" is a sound moral theory?

  • Careless||

    Is that the best she could do?

    It sounds pretty silly to me.

    Not holding beliefs that will destroy you seems silly?

    Well, I never thought you were smart in the first place

  • Brett Bellmore||

    It was actually a pretty banal observation, like her statement that a moral theory that contracted itself couldn't be true, that non-contradiction applies to ethical reasoning, too.

    But even the banal is worth stating, if people have lost sight of it. The truth doesn't cease being the truth for being banal.

  • jaydubyou||

    There is little of revelation in this article: Every country, society, group, club or family has some degree of benefit or flaw compared to another--and each group strives to become better (not worse) than the next. Yes--we're lucky to be born or be citizens here.

    The question is, why not force the "worse" groups to open the borders of their organizations FIRST, and let people of good-will flood those countries, and build THEM up? Why start with the successful groups, and expect those poor, of little resources to come here? Certainly we have the money, planes, food and ability to go THERE. The citizens of poor countries would mightily struggle to come HERE, learn our language, read our signs, become accustomed to our process/procedures.

    Much easier to open the borders of the impoverished countries first, and raise them up, there. Imagine the pride in country they'll then feel. It'll be just like being an American.

  • Eddy||

    I'll have to think about this one...it would help if I knew specifically what alternative system the status quo was being compared to.

  • BlueEyes_Austin||

    Open borders and a system of sovereign states simply cannot exist together. If you want open borders across the world you are, by necessity, also calling for a single, unified world governance.

  • ||

    That's exactly what the one-world government Marxists want.

  • lulz farmer||

    It turns out that a lot of "libertarians" are in fact thinly veiled one-world government desiring communists.

  • Joe_JP||

    The Constitution provides various classifications -- "the people," "persons," "citizens" (various kinds -- state/federal, natural born/naturalized) -- and also has limits on government in general. Also, Art. III provides foreigners a limited right to access to the courts as well.

    I think it important to not have illegitimate limits and classifications but think the "aristocracy" metaphor can be taken too far. For instance, unlike traditional aristocracy, birthright citizenship limits the "hereditary" nature of the aristocracy here. There is then the limit of entry in this country at all. This is a form of "aristocracy," I guess, broadly defined. But, unless we are mere citizens of the world, I think there still is a difference between traditional nobility and American citizenship.

    But, I welcome libertarianism evenly applied like this.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Even if The Economist is correct and there is a $78 trillion dollar bill to be picked up of the ground by allowing complete free movement of peoples, that's just on average the equivalent of a used Camry (or after taxes maybe a used Sonata).

    So yes, let's throw away Western civilization and life as we know it for a used car.

  • SimonP||

    What do you think "western civilization" is, exactly, if not a civilization based on the belief that people have certain inalienable rights, that governments exist to promote freedom, that the free movement of capital, resources, and labor are essentially good, etc.?

    All that Ilya is talking about is applying the animating principles of western civilization to the global population. What are you talking about?

  • lulz farmer||

    It's the civilization of Europeans, predominately WESTERN Europeans. It's not just some dumb set of ideas and fiction that eggheads like you post-facto'd p in the last 50 years.

  • vek||

    Yup. Even nations like Japan that have adopted (cultural appropriation!) a large number of Europe's ideas are VERY different from Europe and the Anglosphere. To expect that western civilization will continue when the people who make up that civilization are overwhelmed by foreigners with foreign views in their own homelands is simply delusional.

  • John Rohan||

    There is a major distinction between the "lottery" of being born in the country you are born, vs the hereditary aristocracies of old.

    The latter system was codified in law - the aristocracy didn't exist accidentally, it existed because it was the product of the laws of its time. By contrast, there is no law that says poor countries must remain poor. Haiti is not like the poor serf or peasant, paying taxes to the United States. In fact, the opposite occurs - the United States pays millions in developmental aid to Haiti.

    Every country in the world has the opportunity to work itself out of its current circumstances. At the end of the Korean War, South Korea had a standard of living on par with Africa. Yet within a generation it built itself up to first world status by a workaholic culture that stressed education. EVERY COUNTRY can do this. They just need to actually do it.

  • Jmaie||

    "the United States pays millions in developmental aid to Haiti."

    Those millions in international aid led to a large movement of Haitians from the countryside to Port Au Prince, which led to mass building of unsafe housing which in turn caused much greater loss of life during the 2010 earthquake.

    I am *not* comparing that movement of people to our own immigration situation. More of a "beware the unintended consequences" thing.

    Cheers.

  • lulz farmer||

    Every country can't do it, but that doesn't mean we have to allow failure migration into our countries.

    South Korea has an average IQ of ~105. One of the highest in the WORLD. They have a high degree of what you might call human capital. Of course they were capable. Africans with an IQ two standard deviations or more below that do not.

  • ||

    Exactly. That's why I find the ridiculous "only culture matters" tripe so absurd. You can instill Western Judeo-Christian values into people like South Koreans and Japanese who have the genetic ability to appreciate them. You cannot instill them into the average Latin American mestizo or African.

  • vek||

    All true. That said, I think Latin America can become a lot nicer than it is. And Africa could probably be at the level of current day Latin America someday too. They'll never catch up to European and Asian countries, but they should be able to escape abject poverty. It's not our job to prop them up and hand them a 1st world country. There just aren't enough honkies to be able to support it!

  • ReaderY||

    For better or for worse, the U.S. constitution created the country that, so far as the outside world was concerned, was an ordinary polity. It was ordained and established by "the people" and established and rafified by the states. It countenanced slavery. The Bill of rights explicitly limited critical rights - the right to be peaceably assemble and petition, the right to keep and bear arms,the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and unenumerated rights — to "the people" only.

    And it gave absolute control over immigration to the government - not just an unfettered right to exclude but a right to import, I.e. to bring aliens here against their will.

    In other words, the written constitution fell considerably short of the universalist ideals expressed at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

    I don't think courts have any business claiming a broad interpretation of these ideals is an improper basis for policy. Dred Scott vs. Sanford's claim that the Declaration of Independence could not be read as applying to people of African descent was, in my opinion, wrong.

    But an honest reading of the Constitution has to admit it falls far short of them. The federal government could prohibit slavery in the territories, but until the 13th Amendment if didn't have to. Those of African descent did not become part of "the people" until the 14th Amendment.

  • ReaderY||

    (Cont)

    Similarly, while Congress can enact liberal immigration policies if it wants and the President can enforce them liberally, the fact of the matter is they also don't have to.

    Thus under the Constitution the question of what immigration policies we should have is in the first instance a political question, not a legal one. The political branches can do pretty much whatever they want.

  • ReaderY||

    Finally, I would point out the similarity between the sorts of arguments Professor Simon is making here, and the sorts of arguments the American pro-life community has traditionally made in opposition to abortion. The way both sides of both issues have ground their arguments in traditional American ideological concepts and rhetoric (as well as legal concepts and judicial rhetoric) has distinctive similarities.

    The fact that, standing on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum and generally speaking to echo chambers, both sides don't recognize the similarity and might vehemently deny it if pointed out to them, doesn't mean it isn't there.

  • JWC||

    There is certainly some truth in what Professor Somin says: we of the modern era have inherited a country of immense wealth, power, and privilege that we have done little to help create, and in many instances, little to earn. Our forefathers did that: the Framers, the Unionists, the Greatest Generation, the Civil Rights crusaders. That is not, however, an argument for open borders. The United States, having long recognized the inequity of inherited citizenship, has always welcomed legal immigration, in numbers that put the rest of the world to shame. We share our wealth, our freedoms, our opportunities. But so that our civil structure does not simply collapse into anarchy, we also have to dole citizenship out in increments. Currently, the United States welcomes close to one million immigrants every year; we swear in about 750,000 new citizens every year. Given the 135 million who profess they would like to emigrate to the United States, that may seem a drop in the bucket, but controlled, sane immigration ensures the best outcome for all of us.

  • ||

    And our current system is not controlled or sane, as it gives preference to family (even extended) and does not take into account whether the person is likely to become a "public charge."

  • HMI||

    Clearly, the only perfectly fair solution is that at birth, each child will be assigned citizenship randomly to one of the countries of the world. We will, of course, have to send the infant there immediately, as being raised in one country rather than another might unfairly confer advantage. But needs must when Justice drives.
    Cf. Plato's Republic for a full description of just how this will all work out. And don't forget Book IX.

  • ||

    Took awhile, but I think you won the thread.

  • lulz farmer||

    Nations are a people who own a territory. Not random people in a territory. We draw our borders up based on what people lives where, or at least we used to before some idiots and malicious subversives about 50 years ago decided to flood us with millions of aliens which is literally collapsing our civilization.

    This idiotic notion that because my ancestors were successful that I am some sort of "aristocrat" if I want to keep dangerous savages who pose an existential threat out of my territory is beyond asinine. You may as well just drop the libertarian lingo and use the communist rhetoric you were really going for at that point since it makes the intent clearer.

  • tekcoyote||

    This reminds me of the bit about Schrödinger's Mexican: is he on welfare or stealing your job? Around Alabama and other points south, these guys are hard workers, do good jobs, and they don't gouge you. I can't say that none of them are bad apples, but I don't see much of that.

    I get that we won the lottery and therefore need to show noblesse oblige, true, but there do have to be some limits.

    I still don't get where Ilya is going with this one. As usual.

  • lulz farmer||

    They're also being subsidized to do that job at a price that Americans can't do because they can't live off that little. I guess your granddaughter being taken as a sex slave by the cartels will be the natural result of your lack of foresight, though.

  • Mesoman||

    Will Somin ever wake up to the fact that the bulk of his readers are more and more convinced that he is an extremist nut? The open borders views he espouses are no less radical than communism, and no more workable. And yet, he goes on. And on. And on. And on.

    I was once a member of the Libertarian Party. When I was young. But then I saw that it was infested with starry-eyed utopians who had great sounding ideas that were utterly unworkable and dangerous.

  • RoninX||

    I'm glad to see Somin standing up for open borders. At least he has the courage of his convictions, unlike the progressives who call for amnesty, without ever admitting that amnesty without open borders makes no sense.

    I'm appalled, but not surprised, at the degree to which fear of immigration remains so entrenched in society. Unless you're a full-blooded Native American, you are an immigrant or descended from one.

    Open immigration is what made America a great nation. Without immigration, America would literally not exist.

    The way immigration should work, IMHO, is:

    1) Almost anyone is free to come to the US to work on a guest worker visa. Yes, you can filter out people if they're wanted terrorists or murderers, or whatever, but not just because they come from a country of black people or brown people.

    2) Guest workers have the right to work in the US, but not the right to vote or collect any government benefits.

    3) After a period of time, say 10 years, of being self-supporting and not committing any serious crimes, guest workers can apply for citizenship.

    4) The rate at which new citizens are naturalized can be determined by Congress.

    This deals with the ridiculous hypotheticals like China sending over 300 million people on boats (really big boats).

    It wouldn't entirely eliminate the privileges of birth, but you're never going to be able to do that. The point, in my opinion, is not to eliminate "privilege" but to maximize freedom.

  • ||

    Of all the lies put forth by the left, this is one of the most outrageous. No, we are not a nation of immigrants. The colonists who immigrated were NOT immigrants, and therefore, a large percentage of America that are not American Indians are NOT descended of immigrants.

  • David Nieporent||

    "The colonists who immigrated were NOT immigrants"

    I'll just leave that one right there.

  • RoninX||

    Worse than that, they were "undocumented immigrants".

  • ||

    But to address your asinine post:

    2) Does your proposal call to reform birthright citizenship? If not, this doesn't work.

    2) why only "serious crimes?" Why should we grant citizenship to petty criminals who are continually violating the law?

  • RoninX||

    "Does your proposal call to reform birthright citizenship?"

    While I'm open to discussing birthright citizenship, it doesn't change the fact that parents will need to support themselves, even if their American kids have access to free education and Medicaid. The parents themselves should not be eligible for any government aid.

    "why only "serious crimes?""

    For the same reason we don't execute jaywalkers. You can choose where exactly the line should be drawn, but I would exempt things like jaywalking and minor traffic violations, while violent crimes and other felonies would clearly be disqualifying.

  • lulz farmer||

    "I'm appalled, but not surprised, at the degree to which fear of immigration remains so entrenched in society. Unless you're a full-blooded Native American, you are an immigrant or descended from one."

    No, actually I may just be part of the population that build something out of wilderness. I also may want my descendants to have a future and not be pressured or forced into admixture with undesirables.

    "This deals with the ridiculous hypotheticals like China sending over 300 million people on boats (really big boats)."

    Upwards of 100 million people unlike the founding stock of the country have flooded in since 1965. Is this really so ridiculous or do you just think it's a good thing? Take your marxism elsewhere.

    The "privileges of my birth" are because my ancestors weren't civilizationally incompetent failures. We don't have any obligation to give it all away to those who are.

  • RoninX||

    Asian-Americans have significantly higher average incomes than white Americans. So you don't need to be "like the founding stock" of the country to be successful as an immigrant.

  • vek||

    And is it any wonder most white Americans don't mind reasonable levels of Asian immigration? Problem is, people from all other parts of the world do significantly WORSE than white/Asian people in the USA, and frankly drag the living standards down.

    If we only skimmed the cream from the rest of the world, it wouldn't be a HUGE problem... But letting in the AVERAGE person from abroad surely will. Case and point Indian Americans make over $100K a year on average, but that's only because we only let in the highly educated ones. If we let in a random cross section of Indians their average income would probably be as bad as Hispanics or Somalis.

  • Toranth||

    Actually, the 'Native Americans' were immigrants, too - they came and wiped out the peoples that lived here before them.
    Also, those peoples weren't the first 'Native Americans' either - they came and wiped out their predecessors, too.
    There's recent evidence that there may have even been another wave before that one, even, making the Europeans just the 5th wave of mass migration.

    But since humanity didn't evolve in the Americas to begin with, there is no such thing as a 'Native American' in your argument at all. There's just different groups of immigrants.

  • RoninX||

    Sure, if you want to go back to the beginning, we're all Africans.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    JFC

    I never thought we would hit Peak Somin but here we are.

  • Ghost of Patrick Henry||

    Citizenship is just like aristocracy, except in all its particulars.

    The Conspiracy is losing me with all this radical left, anarchist crap.

    Is anybody in charge here? Wait, that would be aristocracy. Never mind.

  • CrispyBacon||

    Do you have an audience in mind when you write? Appending "aristocracy" to "citizenship" is so astoundingly unpersuasive I really can't fathom how you think it is helpful to your cause. And I don't take issue with your advocacy, though I think it dressed up too much in legal garb it doesn't deserve. The problem is that the argument you present here is sophist, not sophisticated. And nothing can make it any better.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Gee, my children benefit from being born into my affluent family. Maybe all children should be taken from their biological parents at birth and randomly distributed to other parents. End that "hereditary privilege!"

    Somin's idea is so pernicious and dystopian that one is challenged to know where to begin to start attacking it. The whole world awash in stateless migrants won't work out well.

  • DalesIdeas||

    The author needs a spell checker for citizenship and aristocracy.

  • TMLutas||

    The stupid burns.

    Either citizens establish norms for immigrants to follow or immigrants are merely the outnumbered pro-liberty losers in their own countries. If the latter, they could easily gather together in poor countries and swamp their crony regimes. But that doesn't happen. If it's the former, then maintaining a persistent state that unassimilated immigrants remain a small minority of the country is vital to the survival of ordered liberty. That's what's really happening and Ilya Somin hasn't figured it out.

    No citizenship, no free countries, no thanks.

  • kramartini||

    Isn't the point of an aristocracy to allow some citizens to lord over others? How does that apply to citizenship?

    The whole point of dividing people into citizens and non-citizens is to allow citizens to exclude non-citizens not to subjugate them...

  • OtisAH||

    "Here in America, we prioritize content of character, not circumstances of birth. In this country, your fortunes depend on what you can do, not on some inherited pedigree."

    Apparently the author is not keeping up with current events.

  • vek||

    Here's the thing: This ALWAYS existed. Thousands of years ago a working poor person in Egypt or Babylon was faaar better off than a hunter gatherer in sub-Saharan Africa... Hell they were probably better off than many Africans are NOW! That's because the Egyptians built a better civilization thanks to their culture, institutions that they had built, the economy they had built etc.

    So if sub-Saharan Africans had discovered that Egypt existed, and decided to trek there en masse, would the Egyptians have OWED it to the Africans that they should destroy and degrade their society for the benefit of the hunter gatherers? I say no. They didn't build that success, therefore they are not owed a piece of it.

    Same thing is true now. Europeans built the best countries on earth. The fact that the nations that our ancestors built, and what we expand on, are the greatest on earth doesn't mean we owe shit to anybody else. We cannot possibly support and bring up the whole world, so anybody that wants to argue that we OWE destroying our standard of living for the benefit of foreigners has one hell of an argument to try to make to convince people that we should.

    It is forced altruism at its core. Nothing more and nothing less. Other countries must build themselves up, because we can never support them all. That is the only way for the whole world to be prosperous. If they can't pull it off that's no reason for forcing me to degrade my standard of living and that of my progeny.

  • vek||

    As for the aristocracy thing... So what? If we have a meritocratic system within our nations, that's fine. Some people are always born better off as far as individuals go. That ALL people born in western nations are better off is irrelevant. That's WHY our ancestors struggled, and why we struggle to make a better life for our children.

    Arguing that we MUST make ours childrens lives worse off because Somalians have a shit hole country is not an argument. Should we expect people born into wealthy families to not try to give their kids everything they're able to to give them a leg up in life? Obviously that is some seriously Marxist thinking right there...

    Also, the fact is that the 3rd world is where there is TONS of money to be made right now and into the future. Anybody who isn't an idiot knows this. Even shit holes in Africa have FAR faster growing economies than Europe/America do. They're starting from a very low basis of course, but in many ways we are doing those countries a disservice if we skim their best and brightest, because they need them! And we surely don't need their losers.

    So let immigration be smallish and skills based I say. Absolute freedom of movement will do nothing but equalize standard of living world wide, which will lower the hell out of all 1st world countries, and slow down the advancement of the 3rd world.

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