Two decades ago, during a wave of handwringing about “the new nationalism” sparked by the war in Bosnia, the late political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote that the nation-state remains “the best way we have thus far devised for protecting and sustaining a way of life in common.” Yet the nation-state is an abstraction, meaningful only insofar as it shapes the way individuals understand and order their interpersonal relationships. As Roger Scruton has written, citizenship defines the relationship between the individual and the state—which is to say between the citizen, other citizens, and non-citizens. William B. Allen, whose kind remarks on…
The doctrine of humanity’s original, common ownership of the earth was a staple of natural rights philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These philosophers greatly influenced the natural rights philosophy of America’s founding generation, a philosophy which the founders articulated, among other places, in the Declaration of Independence. I’ve mused this last week on the arguments of one of these natural rights theorists, Hugo Grotius. Grotius devotes a great deal of attention to how (in his view) the original state of humanity’s common ownership of the earth continues to influence just claims even after the rise of nations and private property.
Of special interest given current events are Grotius’s arguments on the implications of the original condition for immigration and refugees. Earlier I considered Grotius’s argument that a nation must allow immigrants to claim “waste or barren land” in a country as a matter of right. But barren, unused land was not the only condition under which Grotius would require a nation to admit immigrants as a matter of (natural) right. Perhaps even closer to current events is Grotius’s discussion of “necessity” as a condition conferring a right to immigrate into other countries.
While styled as an anti-immigrant movement, according to historian Tyler G. Anbinder in his book, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s, the American Party (the “Know Nothings”) of the 1850s did not widely advocate laws that would cap the number of immigrants coming to the U.S. Rather, they channeled their anti-immigrant sentiments most directly into policies that would delay citizenship for new immigrants for a number of years (and sometimes even for decades). The delay aimed to provide time to insure a measure of assimilation for new residents prior to citizenship. (Policies also…
The latest venture to confront the new Donald Trump era is what Hugh Hewitt calls his “conservative playbook for a lasting GOP majority.” This is the subtitle of The Fourth Way, his new book. Hewitt, the Chapman University Law School professor, former Reagan administration official, and talk radio host, is everyone’s favorite nice guy—a charming media personality, fair-minded debate moderator, and the author, so far, of 17 books. This one is his most ambitious.
Wages for American working men got a double whammy during the last fifty years. First, starting in the late 1960s, American women entered the paid workforce as never before. This added significantly to the supply of labor in the American workforce. Secondly, just as the American labor market had started to move beyond the economic shock of increased entry of women into the workforce, the uptick in globalization – easier mobility of capital and labor across national borders – effectively increased the supply of labor competing with U.S. workers a second time. Many of these workers were willing to work for wages significantly below wages for American workers. There are other causes as well, but these factors certainly contributed to stagnating wages for working men in the U.S. over the last 50 years.
But this is not simply a story of loss; there are tradeoffs.
Gerald Russello, editor of the University Bookman, has put together a great symposium on immigration entitled Citizen, Community, and Welcoming the Stranger with pieces by Yuval Levin, Bruce Frohnen, Peter Lawler, David Azerrad, Brad Birzer, and Daniel McCarthy. Below is my contribution which is reposted with permission from the Bookman.
America’s more open approach to widespread immigration is faltering, the support for it eroded by our low-growth economy. For too many, the pie seems to be shrinking, with those at the Little Debbie level much more aware of this than those who can afford double-swirly cheesecakes. To be sure, some of the blame for the Obama era’s anemic growth can be put on aggressive regulatory policy. Obamacare increased, in effect, the tax on labor that employers must pay, with predictable responses on their part. The Federal Reserve became the largest financial intermediary in the country under the reign of quantitative easing, meaning that the central bank, and not an array of investors, has been the biggest allocator of capital. As Bastiat told us, we’re unable to see the value that wasn’t created as a result of centralized policies that squelched opportunities for growth.
When I asked my young patients what their best qualities were, they would almost invariably reply: “I am tolerant and non-judgmental.”
“If you don’t judge people,” I would ask, “how can you be tolerant?”
Peter Thiel gave an interesting speech endorsing Donald Trump. Many people are very unhappy about the endorsement. I am ambivalent about this aspect, because it is beyond my poor powers of calculation to determine which of the worst pair of major party presidential candidates in American history would do the most long-term damage to the republic. But I disagree strongly with the theme of his speech—that what American needs is to become a “normal country.”
What Thiel seems to mean is that America should resemble most other nations, which are less interventionist in foreign affairs and whose citizens see themselves as acting out of interests rather than some set of unique principles. Becoming a normal nation in this respect would not only represent a change from America’s historic role in the world but be against our long-term interests.
The United States is a very unusual, indeed extraordinary nation, because it is founded on principles rather than ethnicity or conquest. And its principles were mostly fine classical liberal ones. That has made it look and behave very differently from other nations. For instance, it has not had as large a welfare state as other industrial nations or even a socialist party. One of my greatest fears is that this election is making it more “normal” in this respect.
The Republican standard-bearer is not trying to trim our burgeoning entitlements; the Democratic candidate, now influenced by the socialist Left of her party, wants substantially to increase them. Insofar as citizens see themselves as part of a “normal nation” rather than one dedicated to principles of liberty, the United States will decline, as the ever-larger entitlement state creates economic stagnation and a war of all against all.