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Christopher Graves

Wonda raised the issue of whether a nation has the right to refuse foreigners admittance. The answer is yes. When a nation is settled and its citizens continuously make improvements on the land as their government erects boundaries and protects them, the nation's citizens have established a property right to the nation. Similar to a club, the nation can lay out the criteria for who may join it as a member.

While abilities and intelligence might be reasonable criteria for admitting foreigners on a pathway to citizenship, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic similarity with the reigning social milieu are also reasonable criteria for citizenship, especially when considering sizable numbers of immigrants. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently observed, egalitarian pluralism within a nation is a recipe for social fragmentation and conflict.

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A citizenry that sees its tax contributions flow to free-riders is discouraged from contribution, which manifests in increased opposition to and subversion of redistributive programs.


Thanks for another amazing blog entry.
The question raised here is very valid and instead of debating on the issue of whether immigrants should/shouldn't be allowed US citizenship by birthright, I suggest we can put additional clauses to allow birthright citizenship; clauses such as the child born in US has spent at least 5 years or has finished his/her elementary education in US gets US citizenship.
America is what it is today due to the hard work of immigrants; those who were born here and worked hard for this great nation.

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T Evans

And, that is the paradox of capitalism / liberalism and borders...

If everyone is free and equal under a capitalist economy, then why would there be borders?

Christopher Graves

T Evans, how does freedom and equality lead to open borders or no borders at all? Would you please clarify how you are defining 'free' and 'equal'?

In classical liberalism, people have an equal right to have their rights respected. Rights are defined in terms of a private sphere over which each individual has exclusive control. Individuals are free only within the bounds of their rights.

As I suggested above, people can group together and establish a nation as they can voluntarily form other associations such as a club. The members or citizens of the nation can then decide who to admit as members. So, other people who "crash the party" have no right to enter another nation unless invited. Excluding people who are not members of the association does not violate anyone's rights nor does it unjustly treat anyone as less than legal or moral equals.


In theory T. Evans makes an interesting point: After all if one really is a "capitalist" the world SHOULD benefit from the free movement of labor to its "highest and best (most efficient) use" just as we do within our nation.

That MIGHT be a Utopian goal for a far distant future but as we emerge from nation-states it would be chaotic if done too soon. As yet we don't know whether EU will work and on some days one wonders if the US would have been better off as several nations.

Actually it brings up the question of today's seeming over-reliance on "capitalism" and "the market" to solve all the problems efficiently.

For example, while some may be content to let "the market" create (ruin?) the next LA, Hong Kong etc, while others, say in our not-yet-ruined Northwest and other regions may favor tailoring land use planning more closely to the carrying capacity of their regions and limit immigration.

If some used land use planning as a limitation would others, Japan? Israel? who may favor cultural similarity as their criteria be wrong? Even the US with its claims of embracing diversity maintains a much "easier" border with, similar, Canada than with Mexico........ or Cuba.

As transportation improves (like the new railway through the Caucuses giving the M/E access to Europe) and wage gaps continue widen the migration of labor (and Ha! capital!) will be troublesome issues for a very long time.

Christopher Graves

Jack, I appreciate your ruminations on efficacy and the labor market. There is a tension in classical liberal thought between rights and utility or wealth maximization. The former is focused on a just process while the latter is focused on achieving specified social results. It is the difference between J.S. Mill's and Immanuel Kant's political philosophy. Judge Posner and Robert Nozick more recently took up this difference in a contemporary setting.

I also appreciate your musings on whether the U.S. should be split into separate nations. Your points on local controls such as land use are also intriguing. Along these lines of local control, I disagreed with the recent Supreme Court ruling on gun control in McDonald v. City of Chicago. It seems that people can band together in communities as they agree to implement their rights in ways that meet the needs of their contingent circumstances.

T Evans

Crashing a pre-existing "nation" should of course be considered "criminal."

Perhaps, birthright citizenship, then would be legitimate only if one could give evidence of 600 years of ancestral rights to american soil. Thus, one can claim legitimacy to birthright citizenship if one is a direct descendent of original nations.

Christopher Graves

T. Evans, every nation has suffered invasion and most have been conquered at some point in the past. While some injustices might be able to be corrected to some extent or reparations be paid, the legal doctrine of prescription leaves things in place for the sake of stability and continuity. Because it is impossible to right every wrong of the past throughout the world does not and should not make the present groupings of people and their lands up for grabs.

The issue you raise of the European settling of the Western Hemisphere is troublesome. The Indians, or Native Americans, did not set up boundaries and protect them as they systematically used and maintained the land. So, when Europeans settled in areas where the Indians were not using the land nor protecting it, it can be argued from a Lockean perspective that the Europeans were justified in staking out claims in those areas as long as they respected the Indians' territory that the Indians were currently living off of. European Americans' actions were frequently morally unjustified such as Andrew Jackson forcing the Cherokee off of their territory in North Georgia. In those cases that can be identified, reparations should be made.

Your comments touch on a fundamental problem with globalism and imperialism. That problem is that people of different cultures cannot live side-by-side with one another. For example, the way that I have dealt with the points that you raised in regard to the settling of the U.S. is imbued with a philosophy and a way of life that is at odds with the economic system and way of life of the Indians even if the basic principles that each way of life was based on are universal. The way these principles are implemented by different people in different settings can be incommensurable with one another. One way of life in a particular geographical area is likely to become dominant over time and eradicate or marginalize the other.

A related problem present in capitalism is that it breaks down traditional ways of life and the natural protective barriers between nations and cultures as world-wide capitalism integrates peoples and cultures. Karl Marx observed this process to be taking place in his time and it has only accelerated in ours. This process cuts people loose from the traditional moorings producing what Marxists term atomistic individualism and what F.A. Hayek has termed false individualism. As we are discovering, this grinding down of indigenous ways of life produces a plastic, ungrounded way of life in which the bulk of people feel alienated from one another since they have nothing in common. Social capital that informally facilitates human cooperation disintegrates in these modern settings. We are seeing that people are not fungible as if they were mere variables in equations.

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It seems to me that both Becker and Posner are willing to keep the status quo: continuous illegal immigration followed by periodic amnesties. The economic and resources demand time bombs of continued mass immigration gets buried as the next generation is born and immediately granted all the privileges of US citizenship.

Come on. We're already supposed to have 100 miliion more people in less than 50 years, mostly due to immigration (both legal and illegal).

To do nothing is to make the problem that much worse for later generations. We're already handing them a huge problem; how can we do nothing and guarantee that things only get worse?


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Its my opinion that once found to be illegal immigrants both parents should be deported. As far as the child is concerned the parents should be given an option to take the child back to their country with them or given up for adoption to a a legalized family member or another u.s.a citizen family. Immigrants are literally taking our gratitude to the extreme. Deport them and use our money on our citizens.

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Joshua Norman

With double digit unemployment and over 40 million people on food stamps, I think not only should we not reward illegal aliens by giving citizenship to their anchor babies, but we should be looking to remove them for this country.

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You posted some very interesting points. The controversy certainly has no easy conclusion. There are positives and negatives on every side of the spectrum.


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