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The Utopian Universalist Chronicles, Part MMMCXLVII

That oleaginous, unctious, self-serving discredit to evangelicals everywhere, Michael Gerson, has unburdened himself of a panegyric to John McCain, in the process hymning McCain's fidelity to the cause of mass immigration. It's compassionate; it's mean to oppose it, and so forth.

James Poulos takes umbrage at Gerson's rhetorical transgressions, and progresses to the heart of the problem with Gersonism:

The big problem with Gerson’s ‘moral internationalism’ is not that it has a big heart or a goofy smile. The big problem is that it’s inimical to citizenship. Gerson and his ilk long for the day that Americans don’t get a better shake in life just because they’re Americans. The moral outrage aimed at people against amnesty would, I guarantee you, magically rematerialize if amnesty were granted and the border sealed. All those excluded people! Moral internationalism, at Gersonian levels, is dedicated to the notion that politics is, at best, an imperfect means to a perfect end, and, at worst, an impediment. But, ironically, in believing that citizenship is only good insofar as it secures access to moral goods, moral internationalists fail to understand that exclusive citizenship is a moral good in and of itself. Because, among other reasons, when citizenship becomes meaningless, political rule still somehow thrives, and commodious living grows perilously contingent when political liberty dies.

Although Poulos is rather more sanguine about mass immigration than I could ever be, this is about right. Citizenship, common membership in a polity, just is about giving other members of that polity a better shake, a shake in preference to outsiders. Otherwise, community in all of its bewildering, proliferating variety becomes nothing more than an instrumental good, and moral ends become unthethered from the contexts that imbue them with significance, and from the constraints that prevent them from becoming utopian intoxicants.

So, in answer to Will Wilkinson in Poulos' comments, yes Americans ought to get a better shake in life from other Americans; the abstract form in which Wilkinson poses the question is literally meaningless, since it evacuates the context of subjects and agency. The logical implication of Gersonism and libertarianism (as Wilkinson understands it) is simply that nations ought not to exist, on moral grounds. And that returns us to Poulos' point about 'commodious living', a phrase which sounds a little Hobbesian to me, but, well, never mind: the likliest alternatives to citizenship arrangements in nation-states run the gamut from bureaucratic empires on the EU paradigm to a world in which many of the privileges and immunities once attached to citizenship are transferred to economic entities. The corporate expense account and employee's handbook as charter of liberties. Libertarianism and compassionate conservatism: recreating feudalism for the postmodern age.

Comments (2)

Open Borders, free trade and military interventionism form the 3 legged bar-stool upon which our drunken elites weave their fantasy of a virtuous empire.

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