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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Summa Contra Xenophobia

I have strong views on the question of free immigration. I hold two strong views in particular. I believe, firstly, that all opponents of free immigration - with the single exception of the very young (whose age constitutes an excuse for their eventual gross ignorance) - are morally depraved. And I believe, secondly, that all opposition to free immigration - with the possible exception of the very young - presupposes an element of xenophobia.

Now these are two sweeping generalizations. And they are unqualified (apart from the bit about the “very young”) judgments. So I had better work d-n hard to back those assertions up. Here goes.

This essay will consist of four parts. First I will show that all opponents of free immigration (except for the very young) are morally depraved. Then I will show that all opponents of free immigration (again, except perhaps for the very young) display an element of xenophobia. Thirdly, I will discuss the fact that all restrictions on immigration are, by their nature, a violation of individual rights. And last of all, I will deal with the issue of Objectivists, specifically, who oppose free immigration.


I feel very strongly about the free immigration issue. I am enraged by each and every man who argues for restrictions on immigration. Now - by “restrictions on immigration”, I mean restrictions other than those which protect individual rights. I do not take freedom to mean anarchy. So I do not take “free immigration” to mean that the government should do nothing whatsoever to prevent convicted criminals, known members of terrorist organizations and individuals carrying contagious diseases from entering one´s own country. I am only condemning restrictions on the immigration of men who are innocent of crime and who are not carrying contagious diseases. And Lord knows there are so many such controls in this rotten world which we live in today!

Now - why am I so incensed by “mere” restrictions on immigration? Well, have you read about the consequences of the restrictions on immigration in the newspapers?

Desperate men, women and children – who are merely trying to improve their own lot by means of escaping from some pesthole in the Third World – frequently drown at sea while trying to travel to free countries by boat. Sometimes it happens that unscrupulous smugglers of immigrants literally throw their “customers” off a boat, way out in the middle of the ocean, and let them drown in order to “get rid of them”. And sometimes the police, or its equivalent, in the prosperous country which the prospective immigrants are trying to reach will actually drive boats filled with putative immigrants back out into the ocean - where they are certain to perish from thirst or from drowning. 

And then there are all the prospective immigrants who have been slowly suffocated to death in containers and truck trailers. 

And then there is the fact that the border police of the U.S.A. every now and then run across the mummified remains of Mexicans in the middle of the deserts of Southwestern America. Those Mexicans had died of thirst while desperately trying to enter the U.S.A. by land. 

And then there are the prospective immigrants (admittedly there have not been many of these cases) who have died of cold or asphyxiation, because they hid themselves just before take-off in the landing gear of some jet-liner which was going to fly to some prosperous nation.

Now – whose fault are these human tragedies? When I have argued this issue with opponents of free immigration they have most often answered “Well, those prospective immigrants chose to try to enter our country by boat or by crossing the desert or by hiding in a container. So, obviously, it is those prospective immigrants´ own frigging fault!” This line, which I have actually heard, enrages me. For these swine, who are making that argument in order to defend the policies which bring about those tragedies - they are blaming the victims!

For, the reason that prospective immigrants take the enormous risks that they take is the fact that they are desperate. Which is due to the fact that the governments of the western countries try to prevent them from doing what they need to do - which they moreover have a right to do – namely, to improve their own lives by means of moving to a country which is more pro-life than the pesthole which they had the misfortune to be born in. The putative immigrants are not doing anything wrong when they merely exercise their individual rights in order to improve their lives.

And the prospective immigrants often meet with tragic fates even when they succeed at reaching their goal. For the western countries often “send the immigrants back”. And that breaks the immigrants´ hearts! These prospective immigrants have often “bet the farm” on a desperate attempt to reach a free country. They often use up their life´s savings in order to reach a free country in which they will be able to enjoy a human existence. But – just when they thought that they have made it – they are sent back to the very pesthole which they had paid such a high price to escape from.

Now – those prospective immigrants who have been “sent back” or who have died in the attempt to reach a better place to live - are total strangers to me. I have, for obvious reasons, not had any opportunity to befriend any of them. So why should I care about their fate? Well, for one thing: I value justice. That is one excellent reason for me to care.

And another reason is that I detest the disgusting phenomenon of indifference to the suffering of innocent human beings. Those human swine who oppose the free immigration of innocent men, despite all the tragedies which I related above, are callous and inhumane. They are indifferent to the suffering of innocent men. They are, in my opinion, moral monsters. They are on the same moral level as those semi-humans which can stand by and watch while an innocent man is physically tortured, without seeming to feel anything.

Also, there is the fact that the advocates of “sending them back” are picking on the weak. Almost no man is weaker, and is with fewer friends, than the prospective immigrant. Those brave individuals are alone against the entire police force plus the entire military apparatus of hostile alien governments. And the opponents of free immigration sit in the safety of their own homes and workplaces - where they are well-fed, comfortable and warm – and smugly urge their governments to see to it that those innocent weaklings be persecuted and victimized!


And I also have a personal reason for being p-d off by the opponents of free immigration. This additional reason for my feeling so strongly about the issue of free immigration is the hardship which my own wife has gone through due to Sweden´s restrictions on immigration. My own wife, Thi, is an immigrant to Sweden from Vietnam. And she has suffered due to the Swedish government´s restrictions on immigration. And since I love my wife deeply, I am personally p-d off by those restrictions. My wife is such a kind, gentle woman and is such a good, morally upright person. But she had to go through hell before she met me.

My wife came to Sweden a few years ago. A man from Sweden had visited Vietnam, looking for a wife to bring home. Some relatives of my wife recommended her to marry him. She trusted her relatives´ judgment and did so. But when she came to Sweden, after marrying that man in Saigon, she soon discovered that this man was an alcoholic - and that he beat her whenever he was drunk. Which was almost every day. My wife went through a year of hell. For - she was afraid to leave this man, since she knew that she might then be sent back to Vietnam. And in that case she would face an uncertain future. But after an incident in which her husband seemed to threaten her with a kitchen knife, she just had to leave him and divorce him. For Thi feared for her life after that incident.

Well, after the divorce, it turned out that Thi´s fears were not unfounded. For the Swedish Immigration Authority decided that since Thi now was not married to a Swedish man any longer, there was no reason that she should be permitted to continue to stay in Sweden! But my wife appealed the Immigration Authority´s decision to a Swedish court. The court deliberated for an entire year. During that whole year Thi waited, with the Damocles Sword of being “sent back” hanging over her. And during that entire year Thi was not permitted to work. For she did not have a “work permit”! (Imagine, the very idea that anyone should need the government´s permission to carry out honest work! That is absurd!). Thi herself wanted to work - but she was not permitted to. So for a whole year Thi had to live on welfare payments. And guess what? There are reams of Swedish swine who oppose free immigration and who are in the habit of complaining about “Those rotten parasites from abroad who come here in order to live off of our oh-so-generous welfare system because they are too lazy to work”!

Thi met me, and then married me, while she was waiting for the law court´s decision in regard to whether she would be permitted to stay in Sweden. The County Court heard Thi´s case exactly six days after our wedding. I attended the hearing - although I was not given a chance to testify. The representative for the Immigration Authority - a tired old woman of around 50 with deep lines in her face (I bet that she had been a radical Communist when she was young back in the 1960s. You know – she was probably a survivor of that proverbial “Long March Through the Institutions”. Although she had, in that case, permitted herself to be corrupted by the system which she had set out to conquer. Big surprise!) - argued, with a straight face, that Thi should be sent back despite the fact that she was now married to me, a Swedish citizen. For the oh-so-brilliant reason that our marriage "might be a fake one". I.e. - it just might be a fake marriage intended merely to enable Thi to stay in Sweden. So the onus of proof was on Thi and I to prove that we had not done anything wrong! Well, what were Thi and I supposed to do? Should we have installed video cameras in our bedroom, made recordings of our nights together and sent the tapes to the Immigration Authority - to function as objective evidence?

Well, to my and to Thi´s great relief, the County Court decided to let Thi stay in Sweden for reasons unrelated to the fact that she now was married to a Swedish man. If Thi had been sent back to Saigon then she would have had to re-apply for permission to move to Sweden. She would certainly eventually have been granted that permission – since she was now married to a Swedish citizen again - namely me. But it would have taken perhaps a year for the bureaucracy to do its "work". During that time Thi and I would have been kept apart from each other. And Thi would have been obliged to pay substantial bribes to the corrupt government employees in Vietnam who would process her application to emigrate to Sweden – which would not have been easy, since neither Thi nor I had much money.

So, you see, I have good reasons to feel a personal animosity towards restrictions on immigration and towards those human swine which defend such restrictions.

And I have not even begun to tell you anything at all about the hell which Minh, a good friend of my wife, went through. Minh was a boat refugee from Vietnam who came to Sweden back in the 1990s, and who also had major problems.


I have shown that restrictions on immigration have vicious consequences. But in order to prove, conclusively, that all opponents of free immigration also are morally vicious, I have to deal with the question of scienter. In other words – do those bastards know what they are doing/saying when they oppose free immigration? Or are they merely making an innocent error of knowledge?

Well, I know for a fact that anyone and everyone in my own country, Sweden, if he reads the newspapers at all, must be aware of the vicious consequences of the restrictions on immigration. For I have seen with my own eyes that the newspapers frequently carry reports on those vicious consequences. After all, the reason that I know all about the many drownings and the many suffocations and so forth of prospective immigrants, is the fact that I have seen detailed reports of concrete instances of these types of events in the papers. And my fellow Swedes - they read pretty much the same mainstream newspapers that I do.

But - if I am to be able to say that all opponents of free immigration are morally vicious, then I must demonstrate that those of them who live in other countries also must know about the consequences of the restrictions on immigration. In other words - how can I be sure that the mass media in other countries report on the consequences of restrictions on immigration to the same extent that the Swedish mass media do?

 Well, I have read many issues of such American periodicals Time and Newsweek Magazine over the years. And I have seen many individual reports on the tragedies which have afflicted prospective immigrants in those two periodicals while doing so. And any other American or European who reads those magazines must have seen those reports as well. And then there is the Internet. I have seen reports about prospective immigrants who met tragic deaths on numerous news sites on the net. And those sites are accessible to people all over the globe. And then there is the fact that I know that one reason for the fact that the Swedish mass media is so keen on reporting the tragedies which afflict prospective immigrants is the fact that they are controlled mostly by leftists – and those leftists love to point to the tragic fate of immigrants and refugees as a means of blackening the reputation of the allegedly “capitalistic” societies of the West. Well, I know for sure that the mass media in the USA, and also in the rest of Western Europe, are controlled mostly by leftists as well. So it would be very surprising if the mass media in those regions didn´t also give the tragic fate of the immigrants and refugees a lot of attention in order to tarnish the reputation of their own allegedly "capitalistic/racist" societies. 

So I know beyond a reasonable doubt that the mass media all over the western world give major coverage to the tragedies connected with "illegal" immigration. So – I know beyond a reasonable doubt that all men - in the Western countries at least - who oppose free immigration have such a context of knowledge that they do have scienter and that they therefore are moral scum.

And what does it really matter anyway if I am wrong on this point (not that I harbor any non-arbitrary suspicions that I am wrong)? The opponents of free immigration are advocating for the use of physical force by the government – against men and women who have not themselves used force. For the prospective immigrants certainly did not do anything involving force when they merely fled for their lives from poverty and oppression. And – since the reports about the tragedies afflicting these putative immigrants are reported in the mass media of all the countries of the West to some significant degree at least – these opponents of free immigration could not have tried hard at all to find out the facts - if they are blithely unaware of them. 

And that means, in such case, that they are advocating for the use of physical force against non-criminals with a cognitive recklessness. For they are so presumptuous that they claim to know that their own governments have a legitimate right to dispose of the fate of other men – even while they have not taken much trouble to find out what the relevant facts are. And that means that they, in such case, are moral scum - even though they do not have scienter. For ignoramuses who cavalierly presume to have a right to dispose of the very lives of other men - by means of governmental physical force - are morally contemptible also!


What makes the opponents of free immigration tick? What are their motives? 

I say that all of them are motivated to some significant degree by a fear of “outsiders” or “aliens”. In other words, all opponents of free immigration are to some significant degree xenophobes. Now, this statement of mine is of an incendiary nature. For - xenophobia is a form of ethnic collectivism and it is therefore closely related to racism

Now, I do not equate xenophobia with racism. There is a difference. To be sure, both racists and xenophobes feel a fear of the members of “alien” collectives. But xenophobes are not on the premise that the members of those alien collectives, whom they fear, are morally or intellectually inferior to the members of their own collective. Racists are on that premise. So racists are, morally, still worse than xenophobes. 

Xenophobes and racists have a common psychology – a visceral fear of “aliens”. But they do not have a common philosophy. They do not both regard “aliens” as being intellectually or morally inferior. Except in those cases where a xenophobe is at the same time also a racist, of course. 

I suspect that all racists are xenophobes. But I also know that not all xenophobes are racists.

Now – how do I know that all opponents of free immigration have an element of xenophobia in them? Well, the best place to start is with the empirical evidence. I have argued against advocates of restrictions on immigration many times over the years. And I have seen that all of them fall under one of three categories. 

Some opponents of free immigration, namely the leftists and the socialists, are afraid that an influx of immigrants will lead to a more intense competition on the labor market, with “wage dumping” as a consequence. They are therefore especially afraid of immigrants from the Third World. 

Other opponents of free immigration, namely the ones who lean towards conservatism, are afraid that an influx of immigrants will lead to their own culture being “polluted” by the cultures of alien societies. They are therefore especially afraid of immigrants from non-Western areas of the world. 

The third kind of opponents of free immigration consists, to a large extent, of Objectivists. These opponents of free immigration are afraid that some of the prospective immigrants will turn out to be terrorists or violent criminals, or will prove to be enemies of capitalism. They are afraid that if we permit Arabs and Muslims to immigrate freely into our Western societies, then our societies will become infested with Islamistic terrorists. And that if we permit the free immigration of Mexicans into the USA, then America will become plagued by violent drug gangs. And that if we permit free immigration from leftist societies, such as those of Latin America, then we will risk being voted into socialism once those immigrants come to constitute a large fraction of the electorate.

Well, all the opponents of free immigration which I have run into have been afraid of the prospective immigrants. They have shown clear signs that they feel a visceral fear of hordes of aliens “invading” us, - and subsequently either “dumping” our wages or “polluting” our culture or blowing us up or voting us into socialism. And that fear of theirs is a fear of an entire collective. Those enemies of free immigration are not afraid of merely individual foreigners. They generalize and say that any member of at least some particular alien group(s) constitutes a possible threat - by dint of his being a member of that alien group(s). And is that not on the face of it a fear of the aliens per se? I.e. a visceral fear of any and all members of a collective?

Well, it is obvious that the fear of “wage dumping” and of “cultural pollution” are instances of irrational collectivism (socialism and ethnic collectivism, respectively).

But - what are we to make of the fear felt by some Objectivists that some immigrants will turn out to be terrorists or socialists?  Well - some individual Arabs/Muslims are in fact Islamists who sympathize with the terrorists. That is true. And some Latinos are socialists. That is also true. 

Well - this means that the restrictions on immigration advocated by some Objectivists constitute preventative law. For putative immigrants are to have their right to live and work where they want violated on the grounds that they might turn out to be terrorists or socialists, according to these Objectivists.

Do you remember Ayn Rand´s analysis of racism, in her essay "Racism", from way back when? She explained the phenomenon of the racism-flavor of collectivism in that essay - Ms. Rand stated that the white racists of the Deep South observed that some individual blacks had raped white women or had proven themselves to be lazy or whatever - and that those racists then proceeded to decide that they could permit themselves to use (the initiation of) physical force on all blacks on the grounds that they (the racists) knew for a fact that there were some individual blacks who had done bad things. Well - what is the difference between those racists (whom Ms. Rand despised) and the Objectivist opponents of free immigration? Both decide that they have a right to subject all the members of a certain group to (the initiation of) physical force, on the grounds that they know for a fact that some members of that group are “bad” in some way.

And there is still another reason to view all opponents of free immigration as being xenophobes. Even if their motives are individualistic – for example, even if they are motivated by a genuine desire to protect themselves against Islamistic terrorism – they are in fact advocating patently collectivist means to achieve that individualistic goal! For they are advocating that all members of a certain group – foreigners – be discriminated against. For what does it mean to restrict immigration - if not to treat all foreigners in a less favorable way, where individual rights are involved, than the way that the citizens of one´s own country are treated? Well, individualist goals do not justify collectivist means - do they? Moral ends do not justify immoral means - do they? And if it walks like a xenophobe, and it talks like a xenophobe - then it is a xenophobe! Actions speak louder than words - The Primacy of Existence!

Enough said. There can now be no reasonable doubt that all opponents of free immigration have an element of fear of the members of a certain type of collective - namely aliens. So they are all of them, to some extent, xenophobes. Even if they somehow also are Objectivists.


Unfortunately, the question I posed in the caption above is necessary to answer. For, there is so much ignorance about this issue in our collectivistic modern world.

Let us begin by concretizing. Say that a man is born in New York. He lives and works there for many years. Then, one day, he decides that he wants to move to Chicago and work there, in order to improve his lot. Does the American government have any right whatsoever to demand that he gets permission from itself (the government) in order to get to move to Chicago, and to work there? No way, man!

Now, let us say that another man is born in, say, Mumbai or Sao Paolo or Jakarta. And he decides one day that he wants to move to Chicago, and work there, in order to improve his lot. Does the American government have any right whatsoever to demand that he gets permission from itself (the government)  in order to get to move to Chicago, and to work there? Again – no way, man!

And the mere fact that, in the latter example, the man is not a born American makes no difference whatsoever. For rights are not gifts from the government. All men - by their nature as rational beings - have the same rights. Regardless of nationality, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and so forth. The mere fact that a man is not an American, or is not a Swede, does not mean that he lacks the same right as an American or a Swede to live and work anywhere in the U.S.A. or in Sweden that he wants to (provided, of course, that he can find a place to live and a job to accept - by his own efforts).

Restrictions on immigration are a violation of individual rights for another reason also. They are instances of preventative law. For prospective immigrants are prevented from exercising their right to live and work wherever they wish before they have committed any crime. When leftist governments restrict immigration, they assume that the prospective immigrants might not be “sufficiently beneficial” to the labor market of the host country (which is, obviously, a collectivist premise - this is the idea that one must be “beneficial to the community” in order to be permitted to live in it) until proven otherwise. For they do not permit the alien to exercise his right to move into the country unless and until it is proven that he is beneficial. And when governments restrict immigration on the grounds that a prospective immigrant might be a terrorist or a violent criminal, they treat the prospective immigrant as “guilty until proven innocent”.

Of course, preventative laws are necessarily non-objective laws. Take the case of the Swedish immigration laws. These laws say that a foreigner does not have a right to enter Sweden, with the exception of persons who risk “political persecution” in their home country. But - how will the Swedish government possibly be able to apply that law consistently? All countries of the world violate individual rights (which is what political persecution is all about)  to some degree – even the Western ones. So the Swedish government would have to let every alien who so wishes, move to Sweden in order to apply that law with full consistency. Since it does not want to do that, the Swedish government has put into practice the policy that only a “sufficiently substantial” risk of political persecution will give an alien the right to flee to Sweden.

Well, what constitutes a “sufficient” risk? A 50% risk of being murdered by one´s own government? A 20% risk? A 5% risk? A 1% risk? And how will the Swedish government determine the magnitude of the risk?

And how major a form of political persecution will qualify a foreigner for asylum in Sweden? Will not being able to get a job be enough? Will being beaten up while serving in the military be enough? Will having racial slurs or the like sprayed on the walls of one´s house be enough? Will having difficulty in finding a place to live be enough? Will being harassed, or insulted, by government bureaucrats be enough? Will being subjected to a hostile tax audit be enough?

So you see, any laws which restrict immigration, so long as they stop short of banning all immigration – i.e. which stop short of banning immigration as such - will necessarily institutionalize a rule of caprice (a rule of terror, actually). There is no way to regulate immigration objectively – just as there is no way to regulate prices or wages objectively.

And restrictions on immigration violate the rights of the citizens of one´s own country also, to boot! For, if my employer decided that he wished to fetch somebody from, say, Bangladesh or Ethiopia and let that fellow work for him here in Sweden instead of me, then I would be violating my employer´s rights as well as the putative immigrant´s rights if I blocked that Bengali´s or Ethiopian´s attempt to immigrate to Sweden and take "my" job. And likewise, if my landlord decided to invite a foreigner to come to Sweden and rent an apartment which the landlord owned, I would be violating that landlord´s rights if I blocked that foreigner´s attempt to immigrate to Sweden and rent that apartment.


Well, most men today do not understand the issue of individual rights. So I would not be justified if I condemned all enemies of free immigration on the grounds that they were contributing to the violations of individual rights. Many enemies of free immigration just don´t know better. So they do not have scienter.

But the reason I condemn all enemies of free immigration is not their advocacy of violations of individual rights per se. The reason that I condemn all enemies of free immigration is, as I have explained, that they are, firstly, callous individuals who are indifferent to the suffering of innocent fellow men - and, secondly, that they are bullies who pick on the weak

So the issue of individual rights per se is not really the root source of my contempt for the opponents of free immigration.


Now, should I and you the reader, alienate ourselves from Objectivists who disagree with us over the narrow, political issue of free immigration? When they agree with us on so many other, more fundamental questions of philosophical principle? 

Yes, yes, yes! Any man who is willing to victimize the weak and innocent is not a good Objectivist. I do not think that such a man is a valuable ally. And I do not think that he is suitable as a friend. That is why I am now taking the risk that I may wind up alienating me from an awful lot of Objectivists. I say “an awful lot of Objectivists” not because I think that many Objectivists are themselves opposed to free immigration. I believe that most Objectivists understand that they must support the principle of free immigration in order to be consistently in favor of individual rights.

But, in my experience, many Objectivists refuse to ostracize those fellow Objectivists who support restrictions on immigration. In my experience, many Objectivists are willing to “sanction the sanctioners of evil" in this issue. 

It would be a grave error to refuse to “exclude” otherwise good Objectivists who were willing to tolerate the victimization of innocent Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. This would be a grave error despite the fact that the victimization of those Jews would be a very narrow concrete

And for the same kinds of reasons it would also be a grave error to refuse to “exclude” otherwise good Objectivists who were willing to tolerate the victimization of innocent prospective immigrants. This would be a grave error despite the fact that the victimization of those prospective immigrants would be a very narrow concrete

For - the victimization of the innocent is always a major moral issue. And as Milton Friedman said in another context: When individual rights and justice are at stake, one is not permitted to count noses!