Caplan Contra Citizenism, Again
Print Friendly and PDF

Media darling Bryan Caplan denounces pariah Steve Sailer again:

The Universal Citizenist

Bryan Caplan

In the past, I've argued that Steve Sailer's citizenism is a moral travesty.  Advancing the interests of your in-group should always play second fiddle to respecting the rights of out-groups.  But recently, he presented what sounds like a universal argument for citizenism:

We live in a world of about 200 countries, a world that for all its flaws, is relatively peaceful and prosperous. And the basis of that order has been a set of assumptions about what the purpose of government is that both Caplan and myself call citizenism... The difference between Caplan and me is merely that he wants to take this order based on citizenism and blow it up, while I don't.
Charitably interpreted, Sailer's saying something like: "Citizenism isn't just great for us; it's great for mankind.  Vigorous pursuit of national self-interest leads to great global outcomes."  An interesting claim, but is there any reason to believe it?  Steve's only argument seems to be that (a) most countries on earth rest on citizenist principles, and (b) the modern world is, by historical standards, awesome.

This argument is painfully weak.  Citizenism is hardly a recent ideological development.  Appeals to the moral ideal of national self-interest have been around for as long as the nation-state itself.  Recall Cicero's maxim, "Let the good of the people be the supreme law" ("Salus populi suprema lex esto").  What's novel about the modern world is precisely that aggressive pursuit of national self-interest is finally widely recognized as a vice, not virtue.  Putin's policies are bad for Russians, but we condemn them primarily because they're bad for Ukrainians.

You could object, "Due to comparative advantage and blowback, bellicose nationalism is actually contrary to national self-interest.  The best way for countries to help their own people is the path of trade and peace."  A fair point, but not one that citizenists have ever emphasized.

Uh, you know, I coined the critique that the Grand Strategy of the Bush Administration was: “Invade the world, invite the world.” It’s not a coincidence that in the 21st Century, a bellicose foreign policy and a pro-mass immigration domestic policy are so highly correlated. Over the years, I put immensely more effort than Caplan did into critiquing the Bush Administration’s Iraq Attaq. (Caplan, as befits his lazy extremist intellectual tendencies, claims to be a pacifist.)

Bryan’s not terribly supple brain doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that favoring your fellow citizens is like favoring your family members: it’s doesn’t imply that your family enjoys carte blanche to home-invade your neighbors, steal their silverware, and eat their pets; or that favoring the corporation in which you own stock doesn’t entitle you to burn down its competition.

Read the whole thing there. Bryan’s links to previous posts of his are particularly (unintentionally) funny.

Print Friendly and PDF