Borders Part 2

###by Dominic Blackwell

When a nationalist politician says they want secure borders, or a social conservative politician says they want a return to traditional values, it is easy to characterise it as rigid, hard, closed. But this is to misunderstand what is happening. Even with the most controlled borders, the border guards are allowed to cross the border, otherwise they could not do their job, which is to check the credentials of those who wish to cross the border and who must arrive outside the border. If someone wants to come in, they need to be assessed by the border guard somewhere. This somewhere cannot be inside, as the border guard has not allowed them in, so it must be outside. And when the border guard has done their work for the day, they are allowed back to their home which of course is inside as the border guard has to be allowed in.

And the leaders who give the border guards their orders are of course allowed to cross, to visit the leaders who control the other borders and make deals with them. And the leaders find it convenient to let their friends cross, as well as people who are acting on their behalf to make deals or help them keep their grip on power.

In short, closed borders are borders for the few, while open borders are borders for the many.

And this is certainly true with social borders. When a society enforces traditional ‘family values’ their tend to be loopholes for those who make the rules. Morality for priests and kings will be more flexible than those for congregations and subjects. The moral lawmakers want the people to shame their neighbours who break the moral code. But the lawmakers and the powerful can allow themselves freedom by elegantly tweaking the rules or creating special cases, or simply turning a blind eye. If the powerful agree among themselves what moral freeedoms they want they can keep knowledge of their activities from the masses.

So, to campaign for open borders and a liberal society is to claim for the many the rights traditionally granted to the few. It is not a ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ acting in its own interests. It is a movement for the democratisation of movement and the democratisation of moral conscience.

Why, if given freedom, would the many destroy the quality of life of the place they go to, or act without moral constraint? If someone is free to live somewhere, they want it to be a good place to live in, if for no other reason than they live in it. If someone is free to make moral choices, they will act in a way they believe is good, not a way they believe is debauched.

Populist nationalism and populist social conservatism harnesses the power of the many against their own interest. A vote for a populist is a vote against your own freedom. A voter who votes to remove power from ‘them’ is also removing power from themselves.

Opposition to rigid borders is about freedom. It is about taking power from ‘the people’ and giving it to people.

More Writing