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2003 February 17 Monday
Terrorism and the Assumptions of Classical Liberalism

Lee Harris, in an interesting essay entitled "Taking the Terror Cult Seriously", examines the assumptions of classical liberalism and argues that terrorists and ancient Spartans both demonstrated the falsity of a key assumption of liberalism.

Hobbes was the first man to argue that it was possible, in principle at least, to create a stable and peaceful social order exclusively on the basis of the enlightened self-interest of the individual members of that social order. Each man would see that it was to his advantage to renounce violence as an instrument for his own self-aggrandizement and to permit a monopoly of violence in the hands of a single authority.

This is the foundation of all forms of liberalism, both classical and modern, and is equally the presupposition of both Ayn Rand and John Rawls; though none of the later formulations of liberalism achieves the same clarity in respect to this core belief as Hobbes achieved in his political philosophy. For the great indispensable faith of all liberalism, as Hobbes understood, is the tenet that all men have the exact same proportionate fear of violent death, and that because such a fear is equally distributed, men all have the exact same motive to renounce violence, namely their equal fear of violent death at the hands of their neighbors.

As career criminals, corrupt officials, and terrorists demonstrate daily, people do not all have equal levels of motive to respect the rights of others. Also, and even more ominously, people do not even have equal desires to keep themselves alive. Oriana Fallaci understands this difference:

"Listen," she said, wagging a finger. "Those who do not follow what people like me say are unrealistic, are really masochistic, because they don’t see the reality …. Muslims have passion, and we have lost the passion. People like me who have passion are derided: ‘Ha ha ha! She’s hysterical!’ ‘She’s very passionate!’ Listen how the Americans speak about me: ‘A very passionate Italian.'

"Americans," she said, repeating for me something she told the American Enterprise Institute, "you have taught me this stupid word: cool. Cool, cool, cool! Coolness, coolness, you’ve got to be cool. Coolness! When I speak like I speak now, with passion, you smile and laugh at me! I’ve got passion. They’ve got passion. They have such passion and such guts that they are ready to die for it."

Too many modern liberals (and I include leftist liberals, libertarian liberals and even some neoconservative liberals) have so internalized the need for everyone to accept the existence of everyone else that they have a hard time accepting the consequences of the fact that others do not share their beliefs.

All ideologies are simplifications of reality. Liberalism is no exception. Simplifications can seem to work for a time and over some range of conditions as long as those conditions do not vary too far outside of the conditions that an ideology assumes to always be true. The problem for classical liberalism today is that technological advances are making it easier to create conditions in Western societies that are outside the range of allowable conditions needed for a liberal society to survive.

Technology creates challenges to classical liberalism in a few ways that all strengthen each other. First of all, technology increases the amount of damage that non-state actors can do. Common elements of modern industrial society can be used to wreak havoc on that society. Another consequence of advances in technology is the great increase in contact between liberal and illiberal civilizations (the idea of civilizations used here in the same sense as used by Samuel P. Huntington). People who in the past had very limited access to information about the West and who would have had a hard time travelling to liberal Western societies can now learn about and travel to and even live in Western societies rather easily.

The increase in contact across cultures certainly is spreading ideas in both directions. So the various cultures are changing in response to contact with other cultures. However, this is also causing increased hostility in some cases as some people in each culture learn things about other cultures that they find deeply objectionable.

Another change being wrought by technology is happening within illiberal civilizations. Simply put, the various distant parts of a given civilization are finding themselves in greater contact with each other. This greater contact is causing increasing homogenization of thought within those civilizations as geographically separate peoples are increasingly able to hear the exact same arguments and read the same writings. Within Islamic Civilization this is helping to spread fundamentalist Islam from the Arabian peninsula and Egypt (e.g. see this Canadian Muslim web site's enthusiastic description of the influence of Egyptian fundamentalist Sayyid Qutb) to destinations as far away as Indonesia, Malaysia, and even mosques in America. Local varieties of religious belief are dying off in ways that are roughly analogous to how chain stores outcompete local stores.

A reduction in the cost of transportation combined with an environment that allows in large numbers of legal and illegal imimgrants challenges classical conceptions of citizenship. Some people who come to dwell in liberal societies not only do not embrace the liberal ideals but also actively work against those ideals. One method by which people work against the ideals of the larger society is to isolate their children from it and to arrange to have their children taught a conflicting set of values. Others work against the larger society by committing or supporting acts of violence against the society.

Some argue that globalization obsolesces the concept of citizenship. Wall Street Journal editorial writer Robert Bartley thinks our borders should be open to all comers.

Back in the immigration debate of 1984, we proposed a five-word Constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders.... Someone who believes in the free trade in goods and free movements of capital will quite naturally believe in free movement of labor, another factor of production. In terms of men, what could be more fundamental than the freedom to move your person? Perhaps the most important freedom of all is that of emigration....

Bartley sums up in closing:

America’s uniqueness, its special advantage celebrated tomorrow, is that it is a nation rooted not in an ethnic heritage given by birth, but a set of ideals any immigrant can share.

Note that Bartley said America is a nation with "a set of ideals any immigrant can share". He didn't say "will share". He didn't say "must share". In fact, as J.P. Zmirak discovered when he had a conversation about immigration with a pair of Wall Street Journal editorial writers, these advocates of an extremely open immigration policy do not believe that all native born Americans share the ideals that define a real American.

And then the émigré leaned forward, brow knitted, to confide a new insight. “They’re not real Americans,” he said in a thick Slavic accent. The people who show up wanting to work, who aren’t afraid of 12 hour days, who set up shops in Chinatown and put their whole families to work from childhood on—people who put their faith in capitalism, those were the real Americans. “Not those resentful parasites. Just because they happen to live here, that doesn’t make them Americans.”

The open immigration crowd are trying to have it both ways by supporting a position that is obviously contradictory. On one hand they are totally in favor of free immigation. On the other hand, they advance a definition of real American citizens based on personal convictions and work habits and admit that not all legal native born Americans meet their definition for real Americans. Therefore in their eyes some native born lack legitimacy as citizens.

This brings us to an interesting consequence of their attitude. It is obvious that tens of millions of Americans do not fully believe, live, and vote in accordance with the ideals that the Wall Street Journal editorial writers think define real Americans. Anyone who votes for politicians who fund the welfare state is voting in a way that the Wall Street Journal editorial writers would surely hold to be anti-American. Wouldn't it be logical for these editorial writers to therefore argue that voters who vote for support of the welfare state fail the WSJ ideological litmus test and should be stripped of their citizenships and deported? Should people who apply for welfare benefits similarly be deported? After all, if the proponents of the European social welfare state become too numerous won't the Wall Street Journal's America of open markets die from election wins that will send into office anti-Americans who will vote for a bigger welfare state and trade protectionism?

Of course the Wall Street Journal isn't gong to argue for a system of ideological belief tests for citizenship and deportation of non-believers (non-believers of the WSJ global capitalistic utopian faith that is). Such criteria would have to be applied to immigrants and doing that would cut down on the inflow of immigrants. While the WSJ folks surely must understand that somehow what people believe affect whether they are good citizens the WSJ editorial writers are opposed to any potential obstacles to immigration. Why is this? The reason is that even though they loudly proclaim their support for a rather encompassing political and economic ideology they ultimately are motivated by a desire to increase the size of the labour market. How new arrivals will vote or behave as citizens is less important to them than that the new arrivals will be available for hire and to start new companies. Whether new arrivals will be willing to serve on juries, come forth to bear witness to crimes, refrain from using government jobs to enrich family, vote for politicians that respect individual rights (e.g. the right of young women to date the men of their choosing without getting killed by dad or her brothers), join the military, and refrain from acts of terrorism all are less important to the Wall Street Journal than whether the bulk of the new arrivals will be available to eagerly work long hours with smiles on their faces.

By advocating open borders the Wall Street Journal is arguing for something that is analogous to the Tragedy of the Commons but in a political dimension rather than an economic one. The Journal writers take for granted the liberal society that undergirds a market economy. They even take for granted the continued existence and current popular level of support for a market economy. They have done so as a consequence of their embrace of a utopian ideological faith of a strongly libertarian character. This libertarian faith assumes that government is the biggest obstacle to a capitalistic utopian society. But this faith ignores the connection in a democracy between the nature of the voters and the nature of the government. It also ignores the connection between the nature of a nation's citizens and the behavior of its civil servants. The different cultures in the world have different capacities to support uncorrupt government and free societies. The cultural and religious beliefs and family structures of the people who live in a society all profoundly affect the kind of society it will be and the kind of government it will have.

Technology makes it easier for people to travel and communicate across national borders. However, technology does not obsolesce patriotism or the liberal nation-state. The reason for this is simple in the extreme: we still need the state to protect us from would-be rights violators both internal and external. In order to have a functional and effective nation-state (and yes anarcho-libertarians, we really do need one) we need a population that feels strongly loyal to the nation-state, to the kind of society that a given nation-state protects, and to their fellow citizens. Absent that loyalty we can not have an effective military or a government that is sufficiently uncorrupt to function well. A political Tragedy of the Commons will occur when people feel no sense of proprietorship toward their nation. This is the risk we are already running with our current immigration policy. That risk will become an inevitability if we adopt a policy of totally open borders.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 February 17 03:27 AM  Immigration Culture Clash


Comments
John Moore said at February 17, 2003 11:33 AM:

Randall,
Very well said! I am a great fan of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, and of Robert Bartley, but they are just plain wrong on immigration. They are as silly as the most utopian libertarian on the issue, forgetting their usually gritty and realistic take on most issues.

As far as the technology enabling the non-state actor... I am planning a big essay on this (when I get the chance and inspiration). I truly believe that this single factor is enough to radically change what is necessary for democratic societies to survive. I predict that we will require a surveillance state of Orwellian dimensions in order to prevent attacks that will kill hundreds of thousands to millions. I predict that part of the concept of civil liberties will prove to be obsolete and unviable: specifically the concept (not enshrined in the Constitution, interestingly) of privacy from government surveillance.

I think that it will take a long time for this to sink in, because of the reflexive nature of our beliefs about government spying - especially ingrained as a result of the outcry from Watergate.

I know that the surveillance state will be necessary. What I don't know is if it will be sufficient. I also don't know if it will be possible to maintain a free society (as in freedom of action, travel, speech, election) under such conditions, but I am more confident than most.

However, as Charles Krautheimer points out, nothing may save us from biological weapons (note that he was a doctor before he became a commentator).

Armed Liberal said at February 17, 2003 3:36 PM:

There's another aspect, which I discuss at http://www.armedliberal.com/archives/000183.html#000183; which is that there is within Western thought a strain that doesn't value life and 'lack of pain' as the highest good.

A.L.

Tom Roberts said at February 17, 2003 4:16 PM:

John & Randall: a possible explanation of the WSJ take on immigration is that at the levels they are used to dealing, highly paid execs and technical personnel, open borders are already the case. In return for above average performance this class of employer pays all the immigration filing and legal costs. Its rather like how school choice already exists for the very affluent, as they don't care how much a secondary education costs. But the consistency, such as it is, rests in their extension of the school choice paradigm to immigration. Why shouldn't there be a free borders concept for all? Well, the answer to why there is a difference between secondary education and immigration is that immigration concerns the definition of what is and is not within the bounds of a nation, while schools are not part of that decision matrix. But for the WSJ, that isn't their primary interest; international capitalism is.

Trent Telenko said at February 17, 2003 7:42 PM:

These WSJ yo-yos don't read their own history.

America shut down immigration from the 1920's through the 1960's because the American public felt that too much immigration was a threat to America. We have similar levels of immigration now and we are over due for another immigration pause.

The moneyed interests are stronger in relative terms now than then in the 1920s, thanks to our campaign finance system. So when Buchannon and Pete Wilson tried to cash in on this and were crushed at the national level insie the Republican Party.

These interest groups would rather Americans die than our defacto open borders be closed.

They have gotten their wish once on 9/11/2001 and the next time will see them mowed down, as the American people finally demand and get effective border control to end illegal immigration as a security measure.

Once that new reality is in place, it will not go away for a very long time.


David said at February 17, 2003 8:20 PM:

You and Harris are making a patently obvious error in your critique of the strawman assumption you attribute to Hobbes. It is NOT a requirement that all citizens of a Liberal society fear death exactly alike, only on average that they nearly do. Civilization has controlled the psychopaths and apocalyptic depressives in our midst for millennia. When our cities were largely made of wood with poor egress or emergency services the largely uncontrolled access to fire starting technology did not result in the collapse of civilization. It is enough that the outliers in the death anxiety department remain a small enough minority to prevent their accession to dominant position.

The assumption you attribute to Hobbes is necessary for a permanently peaceful, static Liberal society, but for a dynamic, occasionally violent, but ultimately stable Liberal society, a modicum of well distributed mortality prudence is sufficient. This corresponds more closely to the available historical evidence..

Randall Parker said at February 17, 2003 9:21 PM:

David, I'm sure Hobbes understood that there would always be criminals. I was imprecise and so was Harris. But this is besides the point. The difference today is that technology has increased the harm that comes from statistical outliers who are more lacking of fear of death or of respect for the rights of others. Also, technology makes it easier to be reached by people from other civilizations who don't see any virtue in Western liberalism.

Technology is increasing the lethal power of each person, it is enabling the ability to easily travel great distances to attack distant civilizations, and an increasing population for the world as a whole further increases the pool of people who might want to go attack other people.

Fire starting technology didn't result in the collapse of civilization because people were physically separated from each other. Oceans, mountains and deserts were much greater obstacles than they are now. The highest killee/killer ratio achieveable was not as high as it is now.

Cliff said at February 17, 2003 9:53 PM:

A society is by definition a system of order. For a free society to function it is a requirement that the overwhelming majority agree to unwritten standards of morality, ethics, and political possibilities. The last includes the idea that not everything is political, but that is virtually unique to Great Britain and the US. Part of this Western standard of freedom is the willing separation of rigid theology and state, peculiar to the Christian west (developed the hard way). But the standard of Western freedom still depends on the individual honoring most of the Greco-Judeo-Christian ideals of morality and ethics. Thus I do not kill my neighbor not because I fear punishment, but because I know it is wrong. The nub of that argument is that I am responsible for my own sin, others cannot make me sin. But what if large numbers of immigrants do not buy into that framework? Western Europe in the next 20 years is going to find out the answer that question. How do you compromise between topless beaches and the burqa?

Bob said at February 17, 2003 9:56 PM:

Fire starting technology didn't result in the collapse of civilization because people were ever vigilant for fire and put fires out. Even still, entire cities were occasionally consumed even until quite recently. Within the scope of those cities, civilization collapsed.

According to the ruins at Troy, civilization there collapsed repeatedly. In fact, the entire history of Greece is replete with collapsed civilizations and societies overrun by hostile invaders. South and Central America are full of the ruins of collapsed civilizations. Archaeologists often find the ruins of one civilization built on the ashes of another.

Unlike arson, self-interested neighbours provide no defence against weapons of mass destruction. A nuclear blast happens so fast neighbours have insufficient time to put it out before they too are consumed. While fire can spread rapidly, it doesn't spread at relativistic speeds the way radiation does.

With fire comes smoke and light and noise. Radiation is invisible to all but those with special equipment as are viruses and other pathogens.

I think Randall is right about communication technology. Criminals, for the most part, operate in an environment where most of the people they encounter are humanized--even if they sometimes try to dehumanize their victims. Communication technology brings many more people into contact with one another without really humanizing them.

There is a big difference between burning your neighbour while he sleeps and killing thousands of aliens from a far off land. It is psychologically easier to target a building or a place than to target people one knows and sees daily.

Without some means of communication, people would have no reason to hate people who live continents away. Ignorance is bliss.

Arnold Kling said at February 18, 2003 5:47 AM:

I agree with the comment that dangerous technology implies a need for surveillance. See http://www.arnoldkling.com/~arnoldsk/aimst3/aimst324.html (written before Sept. 11, in response to Bill Joy's famous essay in Wired), and http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-120902A (written more recently)

WildMonk said at February 18, 2003 7:51 AM:

Very nice post but I have to side with David and point out that a few "engineering" aspects are being overlooked. It might be easier now than ever, but that does not make it "easy". Nor does this perspective take into account the resilience of the West nor its likely response.

First, a single match could ignite a medieval city. A single nuclear bomb can consume a modern city. But the technology for a nuclear bomb is orders of magnitude more difficult to acquire. A terrorist nuclear attack *may* happen but it will never represent the kind of daily threat that fire represented simply because of the differences in engineering complexity required. Which brings me to my second point...

Look at population figures. There are more people in New York city than there were in the entire world until a few thousand years ago. The US alone has nearly as many people as the entire world in 1350 AD. If a major city is attacked and even lost, that will not spell the death of Western Civ. The scope of modern Western Civilization is so extraordinarily vast as to represent an almost insurmountable challenge to anyone wishing to kill it off. Only a worldwide nuclear holocaust or a biological agent of unimaginable ferocity could make this happen. As to a nuclear holocaust, Islamic Extremists simply don't have the ability to bring this about. The greater fear is biological attack. But even here, none of the disease agents that extremists can master would bring down our civilization. Keep in mind that smallpox plagues were fairly common in America in the late 1700s as our political institutions were being built! Which brings me to point #3.

Look at the comparative strength of the Western Civilization vs that of its opponents. I would guess that it would take roughly four major blows to Western population centers from Islamic radicals before Western armies would march across the Islamic world attempting to completely remake it in our image or to slaughter it trying. Should genocide be the only option available, the West would implement factory death with the same efficiency that we now turn out McDonalds Hamburgers (hell of an image, that). This would be an unimaginable horror
but also one that the Islamic world has seen before (e.g the slaughter visited by the Mongol Hulegu on the Assassins in 1256-1260). It would be a terrible stain upon the West but, within a generation or three, Western academics would be passionately decrying the inhumanity of it all from within the safety of their Ivy-covered towers.
It is simply not in human nature for a stronger power to permit itself to be systematically slaughtered by a weaker one.

As to the argument that it is the *ratio* of extremists in the population and that population is thus no protection, I think you still have the harder case to make. Despite an enormous increase in the lethality of weapons over the past 150 years, population continues to grow at a rapid rate.

Wild Monk

Jeff Fecke said at February 18, 2003 8:38 AM:

I agree with WildMonk--liberal Western society is simply too big and too powerful to be brought down.

Consider: under a worst-case scenario (every single Westerner contracts smallpox), one-third of Westerners would die. A truly horrible consequence by any measure. But the West would still possess the kind of military technology required to obliterate an enemy that would do such a thing. Society would be wounded, yes--but no more so than Europe after the Black Death. Meanwhile, the nation or nations that launched the attack would be colonies, or radioactive glass, or partly both. I suspect even France would be willing to fight such a battle.

Nuclear holocaust? Chemical attack? They could claim New York or London or Berlin. Or all three. But they won't claim every city everywhere. I imagine that America would survive even if the eastern seaboard was sawed off and dumped into the sea--that our new leadership, meeting in the provisional capital of Chicago, would be plotting an attack to end all attacks. Those of us in the hinterlands would be horrified by the destruction, and mourn the loss of friends, but we would carry on.

The utter destruction of Western civilization would require the utter destruction of the West. I doubt we'll see that. The strength of the West--our tolerance, or flexibility, our liberty--will allow us to succeed long after our more chaotic brothers and sisters blow themselves to bits.

Bob said at February 18, 2003 9:10 AM:

Wild Monk,

I think you are ignoring much of Randall's message. Leaving aside the issue of technology for a moment, have you considered the possible ramifications of unfettered immigration of people who do not share liberal values?

Have you considered the possibility that some state might pass a resolution enacting sharia law? Or the possibility of regional balkanization within the US between groups with longstanding ethnic hatreds or incompatible values?

Current US immigration policy makes no attempt to ensure any kind of shared value system, and it welcomes groups in such large numbers they have no need to assimilate any shared values once they get here. Ghetto-ization seems all too common.

Returning to some of your points regarding technology and civilization etc.:

Militant Islamofascist Groups are orders of magnitude larger than lone arsonists. They are supported by illiberal cultures many orders of magnitude larger still. And by preying on piety and zealotry, they draw recruits from the children of one of the world's largest religions.

Remember too, the illiberal cultures in question are cultures where women demand the mutilation of their daughters' genitals and where men can murder their female relatives with immunity--often because they blame the woman for being raped by another male relative. Where men give to their brothers their daughters as brides. Cultures whose base religious texts instruct them to expand the abode of Islam.

Keep in mind too: The cultures comprising Islam are only a subset of the illiberal cultures in the world.

Granted WMD are orders of magnitude more expensive than matches, but they are wielded by groups with orders of magnitude greater resources. As time passes and technology advances, the total cost of ownership of WMD will only decrease.

Wiping out Islam in response to WMD attacks will not solve the problem, because Islamism is not the only threat, and I think such genocide would meet with stiff opposition from people who realise not every Muslim is an Islamist.

Once the threat becomes large enough, we will simply lose our freedom of movement and many other freedoms too. I am not sure we should wait until we suffer tens of millions of casualties before taking effective action to limit our risks.

Bob said at February 18, 2003 9:22 AM:

Jeff,

Your post assumes we would have some country to attack in response. What country would we attack in response to an Al Qaida attack right now? France? Saudi Arabia? Iraq? Pakistan? North Korea?

Your post also ignores what the survivors would have to do to defend against further attacks. Quarantines and radiation checkpoints would limit movement and impede trade. Everyone would be subject to search and seizure upon nothing more than suspicion. Privacy would cease to exist. Habeas corpus would fall by the wayside. Routine torture would replace the fifth amendment. Finding and disarming nukes or stores of pathogens will become much more important than an individual's right against self-incrimination.

Would the majority of the people in the US survive? Yes. Would the US retain its liberal values? No.

Randall Parker said at February 18, 2003 11:07 AM:

Monk, A few points:

1) I'm not just talking about current technological capabilities. Microfluidics, nanopore technology, and a a host of other technologies will make biotech manipulations increasingly easier to do. Levels of effort, skill, and money needed to do WMD development will decline with time. Knowledge of how to make nukes is spreading. It is becoming harder to detect traces of nuke manufacturing efforts because dual use technologies are becoming more powerful and indigenous abilities to make the necessary equipment is growing. The CIA is very worried about secondary proliferators for this reason.
Go far enough out and someone is going to be able to build a nuke manufacturing factory by downloading instructions from the web for their nanotech assemblers. Then they'll just have to click on the "Okay" button and nukes will be built in front of their eyes.
The bottom line: Ease of WMD development will steadily increase and ease of detection will steadily decrease.

2) Electronic surveillance of terrorists will become harder to do.
The National Security Agency is in a difficult position because an increasing fraction of all communication is switching to modes that are harder to intercept. Fiber optics are harder to tap into than microwaves. Complex encryption technology is becoming cheap and easy to obtain and use. The terrorists will adapt and use more secure methods of communication.

3) Psychological effects of WMD attacks will cause even greater changes than the physical damages.
Imagine a single US city is nuked. Will people be keen to live in the remaining cities? What level of dislocation will the resulting fear cause? Suppose 2 cities get nuked. How will people respond? What level of surveillance will they support? Where will they move to and how quickly? How much physical plant will be abandoned because noone will want to live near it?

4) Most of us will survive but will we be free?
When I talked about maintaining a liberal society I was not just talking about keeping everyone alive. How many compromises to liberty will the battle against Islamist asymmetric warfare require? How many compromises will the public demand once a city has been nuked or ten thousand have died in a biowarfare attack?

5) The enemy among us:
In the response to 9/11 some follow-on attacks were prevented by rather aggressive use of confinement powers of aliens (i.e. non-citizens). Most terrorists are not citizens. So the US government can take action against them with a far lower standard of evidence than it can against citizens. The terrorists have surely noticed this. Any terrorist sympathizer with permanent residency status will be encouraged to apply for citizenship. Also, recruitment of US citizens from US mosques will be intensified.
It is reasonable to expect the recruitment of citizens to meet with some success in Western countries. Hundreds or perhaps even thousands of UK citizens went off to fight for the Taliban. One would expect many of those same people to be willing to operate as terrorists in their own society.
The growing number of Muslims in the West serves as a pool from which terrorist networks can try to recruit citizens who can operate under less scrutiny and greater ability to avoid incarceration.

6) Our borders are not well defended.
Hundreds of thousand enter illegally each year. Powerful pressure groups have been successful in blocking better border control. Therefore while the difficulty of getting into the US has increased somewhat it is still pretty easy.

Bob said at February 18, 2003 2:57 PM:

I wish there were more discussion of the Tragedy of the Commons analogy here.

Is it true that, by giving refuge on demand, we are going to destroy the very political resources that make refuge possible? E.g. freedom, tolerance, limited government and open markets

I really think it is an important concept in Randall's original article.

Andy said at February 19, 2003 9:36 PM:

Travis McGee
"We run a strange kind of country in the modern world. Customs and Immigration are in a sense token services. Any plausible-looking person can find many ways to come and go unimpeded. Anything that can be flown or floated can be brought in or taken out. We are but a wide place in the road in the middle of the world, and they wander through, back and forth, marveling at the lack of restraints. It is a paradox. The openness which endangers our system is the product of the policy which says that to close our borders and enforce all our rules and back them up with guns would change the system just as completely as any alien force. Terrorism is going to pay us one fat bloody visit. But it will only be a visit. They underestimate our national resilience. Aroused by that kind of savagery, we will become a very tough kind of people."
John D. MacDonald. Taken from "The Green Ripper" 1979.

Yehudit said at April 22, 2003 1:35 PM:

I find it interesting that you are making a similar argument to that of the anti-globalists. They want to protect local customs by limiting communication with global pop (i.e. American) culture. You want to protect the local "anglo-sphere" culture from being undermined by anti-Western memes, by limiting immigration.

i disagree with much of the anti-globalist argument, but I do believe centuries-old traditions often have wisdom and provide valuable stability and identity, and that should not be arbitrarily heaved overboard by infatuation with the latest superficial meme. I support efforts of local cultures to preserve their own essence - I don't want to see a world where all is MacDonald's and Disney, although these have their place.

I even believe that closed societies which reject much or all of modernity (monastaries, Amish, Buddhist, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities come to mind) create something unique and valuable, as long as they are voluntarily entered and left, and do not attempt to impose their way of life on the larger culture.

So the question for ALL who treasure a particular culture is: how do we preserve our way of life without draconian measures? Especially in response to such as the Islamists, who are not troubled by draconian measures?


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