“Borderism” And The Ethics Of Circulating Stupid Ideas

"Certainly sir! We'd be honored to publish your opinion piece in the Washington Post! We welcome new ideas, whatever they may be!"

“Certainly sir! We’d be honored to publish your opinion piece in the Washington Post! We welcome new ideas, whatever they may be!”

For some reason I’m not certain I’d be happy to discover, some editor at the Washington Post thinks what our world needs at this disturbing moment in time is a new form of injustice to address, one that most of us never considered an injustice at all. Thus that helpful editor decided to give a megaphone to someone named , whom, we are told, is chief information officer of an NGO in Guatemala that promotes local governance in developing countries. This is itself interesting, because it provides a hint regarding why it is that developing countries have such a hard time developing. For Mr. , by the evidence of his opinion piece, deemed worthy of publication in a prestigious newspaper, is bats.

Essentially, his essay “Losing the Birth Lottery” asserts that life is unfair, so the only ethical thing to do is to make life chaotic and unfair. feels that it’s really, really mean that the United States doesn’t guarantee the same rights of U.S. citizens to every human being on earth, and insists that its refusing to do so is the moral equivalent of racism. He helpfully suggests the term “borderism” as the name for this heinous attitude, and writes:

“One could certainly argue that racial discrimination is worse than borderism because it excludes people from opportunities within their own countries. But how much worse? Many aspiring immigrants are born into nations where jobs are nonexistent, corruption is rife and indiscriminate violence plagues daily life. Being legally segregated into poverty and tyranny because of one’s ancestry is a cruel fate, regardless whether it’s because of race or citizenship.”

I was going to explore the raw insanity of this proposition, but is that really necessary? What the essay goes on to suggest, if its principle were valid, would  require that anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world, should just move into the U.S., where he or she would be able to work, vote, receive government benefits, health care subsidies, the works. , who might be a very nice man but is one whom I wouldn’t trust to figure out how to clean my gutters, sees no problem with this. It’s ethics, that’s all! Right is right!  Presumably, it would also be ethical to him for the denizens of any planet cursed with a minimal natural resources and an unpleasant climate to just settle its population on earth, and we’d juts have to deal with it, being ethical and all. For Earthlings to oppose this would be “planetism.” The essay concludes,

“Still, while practical matters are important, both borderism and racism are ultimately questions of ethics. Inheriting the wrong genes is no longer punishable by law, but inheriting the wrong citizenship is. Borderism is thus a sibling of racism as it subjects our rights to the lottery of life. While many opportunities in life are unequally distributed, our legal rights must always be universal.”

Gibberish. Is he advocating global government? Anarchy? Ethics unhinged from the realities of existence are not ethical; indeed, they are dangerous. The mission  guiding ethics is to make life as good as possible for as many as possible while embracing values that experience teaches us advance that goal. One of those values is responsibility, and what thinks would be peachy keen is not responsible. ( airily concedes that practicality is “important,” but you can’t have everything.) Turning the world upside down, making cultures themselves impossible by turning society into an all-you-can-take, open invitation party, in the charming but naive belief that we have an obligation to foil the “lottery of life,” defies the evolution of civilization. It proposes that mankind  retreat to the pre-tribal days of wandering souls, living off the land, unimpeded by law, playing global musical chairs.  True, it would be Hell on earth, but it would be fair. Creating Hell on earth is not ethical, whether it cures “borderism” or not.

So I don’t want to debate ‘s revelation, any more than I want to debate whether we should give Stalinism a try here in the U.S., allow everyone to appear in public naked, or declare Hillary Duff dictator for life. My real question is whether any idea, no matter how idiotic, fanciful, or impractical, is worthy of publication in the Washington Post. I say any idea, because I have a hard time thinking of a worse one that ‘s. Some publications now refuse to publish any rebuttals or skeptical essays regarding global warming. The Post isn’t about to publish a scientist’s theory that the races are unequal, or a historian’s screed arguing that the moon landing was a hoax. It wouldn’t publish a passionate warning about the hidden race of vampires waiting to pounce. Yet none of these propositions are any more invalid that ‘s “borderism” nonsense.

If the theory underlying the Post’s generosity with its website and Sunday edition is that any and all opinions are worthy of publication, then why not white supremacy? I’m not at all sure that a world where ‘s borderless nirvana is entrenched would be any less horrible than David Duke Land, just horrible in different ways. Is there an editor at the Post that read this essay and thought, “Wow! What a good idea!” If so, I think the Post needs to reassess that intern program at the Home for the Bewildered. And if the Post editors realized how ridiculous the essay is—and seriously, if they didn’t, they are not smart enough to edit Weekly Reader—why did they allow it to be published? Every now and then, you know, really, really terrible ideas take root because ideologically driven individuals who are immune to reality embrace them with gusto, and tragedy ensues, sometimes for a very long time.

I don’t know where the line is or should be drawn regarding a bright, new idea that is too stupid to publish responsibly.

I do know that wherever that line is, “Losing the Birth Lottery” crosses it, and that one of the nation’s premier news organizations couldn’t figure this out is troubling.

21 thoughts on ““Borderism” And The Ethics Of Circulating Stupid Ideas

  1. Washington Post leans left, correct?

    It only makes sense for them to push notions that fit with their world view, and based on what I read of “borderism” it’s ultimately based on the leftist worldview and leftist rationalizations for American success combined with guilt over the vast majority of the world’s failures.

    If their world view allows them accept “borderism” as a plausible theory, then this is more an indictment on their Leftist worldview’s inability to frame things in reality, not on their ability to filter out nonsensical ideas. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that if they had a philosophy couched in reality, they would filter out drivel like that “borderism” tripe.

        • I’m confused. Isn’t this the basis of our current immigration policy? Isn’t this the reason we allow illegal immigrants to just walk across the border unopposed and then stay indefinitely. We allow them to stay because returning them to their own country is wrong because their countries aren’t as nice as ours. Isn’t this the dream the DREAM act is supposed to fulfill? His article just says we should have open borders and allow people to live where they want to live. Why wouldn’t the Post publish an article that explains what we are trying to do with our immigration policy and why?

          • Well, because we know the reason, and it isn’t trying to oppose “borderism.” It’s that the business community wants cheap labor, consumers are willing to trade away sovereignty and culture for cheap nannies, gardeners, fruit and goods, Democrats just want to flood the voting rolls with minorities whose votes they can buy with destrctive policies, and the news media is in favor of open borders because if people have pigment in their skin and are poor, they must be doing the right thing.

            Of course, I’m simplifying.
            (But not much.)

            • Many voters who support the sneaky business ethics that wants cheap labor do not examine the hidden costs of increased crime, immigrants that have little interests in integrating into U.S. society, and the enormous healthcare and increasing eduction expense. The people I feel bad for, are the high school students who cannot get an entry level job and guys and women who want to learn a trade but find that construction and painting jobs have gone to recent immigrants who underbid them.

              • The guys and women who want to learn a trade can’t underbid immigrants? The name of the game is provide better value to the market… If that means be a harder worker than an immigrant, be a smarter worker than an immigrant, then that’s what it means. I often find when Americans complain that immigrants underbid them, what they really mean is the immigrants outperform them for what the market considers the value of the task being performed.

            • But they aren’t going to admit to THOSE reasons. The reason they give is that it isn’t fair that some people have to live in a lousy country with a terrible government, so we should let them all come here.

  2. I wonder if Bergstrom realizes he is advocating is building a colonial empire in which the United States makes all the rules. If everyone is entitled to the same rights and privileges as a U.S. citizen, that would require that we impose our will on all foreign lands and make the resources of those lands a sovereign part of the U.S. asset base.

    I suppose he does not recognize the obvious fact that a borderless world would permit U.S. interests to move in wherever they chose to with impunity – perhaps even more easily then the Spanish Conquistadors when they explored and colonized the America’s in the 17th century.

    Knowing that all resources are finite and the distribution of those resources will be determined by a market system – which is necessary to maintain individual rights- then it is quite probable that the concentration of wealth will become even more skewed against the indigenous peoples of foreign countries resulting in even more poverty in those countries.

  3. After some contemplation on Jack’s actual question, “. . .whether any idea, no matter how idiotic, fanciful, or impractical, is worthy of publication in the Washington Post,” I have come to the conclusion that such publication is worthy if the argument is currently being debated in some construct of the author’s point of view. By disallowing points of view that are considered fanciful, ill-considered, impractical or idiotic by those that oppose such points of view without any debate whatsoever amounts to the tyranny of the majority. Who exactly will determine what is fanciful or impractical; government, an editorial board that must balance profitability with quality journalism? By what measure will the select few determine what is ill-considered or idiotic?

    I think Jack you have answered your own question when you stated: “Some publications now refuse to publish any rebuttals or skeptical essays regarding global warming.” This is what happens when the publication decides what is appropriate and what is not.

    While the Post isn’t about to publish a scientist’s theory that the races are unequal, or a historian’s screed arguing that the moon landing was a hoax, these issues are not in the forefront of the American public. If they were, then perhaps the points and counterpoints should be published. Publication should be a matter of current relevancy and not whether or not the publisher deems the idea valid or practical.

    It may very well be that by allowing such opinions to be heard a very strong light will be cast upon such opinions that would be otherwise embraced by conspiracy theorists, modern day Luddites, and others who might look favorably upon such opinions. The most effective way to dismiss such notions is to provide a well reasoned counter-argument. Silencing the opposition prevents you from ever attacking the perspective head on, illustrating the faults of logic, demonstrating the impracticality or lack of consideration of known facts, and from casting the writer as an untrustworthy source of information. More importantly. silencing such opinions allows the thought to fester as a never healing sore.

    • The principle is great, but there has to be a line, because there is limited space, and standards have to be set that simultaneously allow wide ranging exploration of new or controversial ideas, but that also are moored to reality. “Borderism” just isn’t. it’s so stupid it makes my teeth hurt. Silencing opposition to what? To reality? Questioning the many assumptions underlying global warming is definitely not questioning reality, because questioning projections of future events is always legitimate. The Post piece is more like arguing that in a better world, water would run uphill and all citizens would be President some day, so lets make it so. That’s a waste of space, time, thought, and maybe even a blog post.

  4. Jack: I was not focusing on “Borderism” I was looking at the broader picture of what happens when an idea is deemed to be unworthy for publication by some gatekeeper or select group. The argument that there is limited space can always be used to silence critics. That is what worries me.

    I agree that Bergstrom’s ideas are very far removed from reality in terms of consequence. He equates the movement of skilled labor in the relatively ethnocentric EU with elimination of borders in the US to permit the movement of unskilled labor to achieve legal rights that they cannot obtain in their home country. He conflates legal rights with economic opportunity. Both of which can be changed by a nation’s citizenry if they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. There is nothing geographically inherent to crime, corruption and poverty in third world areas. If they want things to be better, they must fight internally to change them as we did.

    Bergstrom fails miserably at discussing the creation of ghettos in the EU populated by less educated migrants from the Middle East, and Africa that has led to the rise of multicultural friction in France, Germany and England. He obviously has a degree in International relations from Wikipedia because he has not a clue about the Estonian ethnic purity regulations aimed at keeping the Finns and the Russians from participating economically and politically. By publishing his nonsense we can demonstrate the foolishness of his ideas. I am a firm believer in allowing people to open their mouths and inserting their foot. The more times they do that the less able they are to create a following or be asked to serve as an “expert” on discussion programs. Example: Joe Biden.

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