Sympathy for the Citizenist
By Bryan Caplan
Citizenists strike me as extraordinarily angry people. But I have to admit: If I were them, I’d be angry too.
Consider their intellectual situation: Every orthodox moral theory – utilitarianism, Kantianism, egalitarianism, libertarianism, wealth maximization, Rawlsianism, Christianity, and Marxism for starters – straightforwardly endorses open borders, or something close. Yet almost everyone in the First World strongly opposes this policy. The moral theory of citizenism, in contrast, does not straightforwardly endorse open borders. Indeed, combined with suitably misanthropic descriptive views, citizenism handily justifies the strict immigration restrictions that most First Worlders know and love.
So why the anger? Because even though people love the implications of citizenism, they wince at the doctrine itself, and stigmatize its adherents. Adherents of orthodox moral theories, in contrast, enjoy respect and approbation. Americans in particular want to have their cake and eat it, too. They certainly don’t want their country “invaded” by Latin American immigration. But when a citizenist articulately justifies their anxiety, the typical American feels like the citizenist is too racist to acknowledge, much less endorse.
Think about it like this: Steve Sailer’s policy views are much closer to the typical American’s than mine. Compared to me, he’s virtually normal. But the mainstream media is very sweet to me, and treats Steve like a pariah. I have to admit, it’s bizarre.
Still, if I were a citizenist, I wouldn’t be that angry. Relative to the open borders alternative, the U.S. border is already virtually closed. (Disagree? Tell me what annual immigration would be under open borders, and compare this to what we currently get). If I were a citizenist, I’d be grateful that the status quo approximately equals my favorite policy. Sure, it’s frustrating when people flip out at you for forthrightly justifying the policies they already support. But what’s more important: Getting the respect you feel you deserve, or getting the policies you think are morally right?