The Misguided Advocates of Open Borders–Diversity Is A Predictor of Civil War

The Misguided Advocates of Open Borders–Diversity Is A Predictor Of Civil War
Frank Salter

The poor quality of analysis behind Australia’s abandonment of traditional assimilationist immigration policy reached its apotheosis recently in a spate of articles by well placed commentators. The proposal of the moment was open borders, (that is), immigration unrestricted by consideration of all factors save for security. Most Australians will reject the proposal as absurd. Unfortunately the analytical basis for policies followed by federal governments since the 1970s has not much differed.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Prof. Mirko Bagaric, professor of law at Deakin University, argues for unrestricted immigration from the poorest to the richest countries as the best means to reduce Third World poverty. Prof. Bagaric opened by stating two truths about human ethnocentrism: “Most still prefer people of their own type and find different cultures jarring”; and “It is in the human DNA.”

However from that point, the article provided almost no hint that humans are an evolved species with an interest in survival. Prof. Bagaric superficially discusses three interests that could be affected by open borders – material prosperity, national security, and cultural tradition – more of which later. This leaves many interests unmentioned.

Unrestricted migration would harm Australia’s national interests in ways documented by scholars in economics, sociology and related disciplines. Much of the harm is predictable from what is known about the dysfunctions of diversity. They include growing inequality in the especially invidious form of ethnic stratification. No one likes to be ruled over by a different ethnic group or to see his own people worse off than others. The result is resentment or contempt, depending on the perspective taken.

Diversity has also been associated with reduced democracy, slowed economic growth, falling social cohesion and foreign aid, as well as rising corruption and risk of civil conflict.

The loss of social cohesion bears emphasis. Rising diversity within human societies tends to drive people apart, causing them to take sanctuary in individual pursuits and ethnic communities. The practical consequences are reduced public altruism or social capital, evident in falling volunteerism, government welfare for the aged and sick, public health care and a general loss of trust. Ethnic diversity is second only to lack of democracy in predicting civil war. Globally, it correlates negatively with governmental efficiency and prosperity.

Thus the thrust of accumulating research in several disciplines indicates that unrestricted mass immigration would be disastrous for wealthy countries.

There are also philosophical issues that deserve comment.

I found the single-minded concern with Third World poverty puzzling. It is true that poverty would be reduced for those immigrating to the wealthy West, but do not the populations of industrial countries also have interests – in ecological sustainability and national continuity – that would be injured by the influx of millions of foreigners? Should not global problems be solved in ways that optimize interests instead of benefiting one population at the expense of another? Should we not be aiming at win-win outcomes?

From the global perspective, humanity as a whole stands to lose from overpopulation. As the late Garrett Hardin pointed out, allowing poor countries, which generally have high birth rates, the expedient of off-loading excess population on low-birth rate regions reduces the incentive to solve their own population problem, for example by tackling the poverty and under-education of women. Global overpopulation can only be solved one country at a time, not by rewarding profligacy.

Another philosophical issue is Prof. Bagaric’s equating parochialism with morally repugnant “racism”. Surely that is not true, firstly because “racism” has no agreed definition and has been deployed for ideological and ad hominem purposes. It is more an instrument of abuse than of reason. If its use cannot be avoided, it should be reserved to describe ethnically aggressive statements and acts, not the peaceful expression of pro-social sentiments common to humans everywhere.

Secondly, the notion that preference for one’s own people is immoral ignores the universal interest we all share in particular affiliations. All humans share parochial interests that give rise to social preferences. It would be maladaptive not to prefer people of our own type, beginning with kin. And in general, this preference is moral. Bearing and caring for our own children, choosing friends on intuition, and having a special affection for our own country cannot be equated with hating others. A liberal society that allows free expression of these moderate preferences is hardly the moral inferior of one in which the elite scolds and punishes the people’s aspirations to have a country of their own.

The universality of parochial interests contradicts Prof. Bagaric when he states: “For most of human history there have been few migration limits. . . . A relevant reason [for restricting immigration] cannot be a person’s birthplace. This is merely a happy or unhappy coincidence.”

The anthropological reality is the precise opposite: until recent decades almost all human society have sought to prevent permanent mass migration. Hunter gatherers and primitive agriculturalists, farmers and herders have all laid claim to a territory and fiercely defended it. Marriage partners have been found almost exclusively within the ethnic group, encompassing the local dialect. The psychological motivations for this are well established in such predispositions as social identity mechanisms, collectivism, assortment by similarity, innate cognition of human kinds, and rational choice. Evolutionary origins of territoriality and ethnocentrism are indicated by their being human universals as well as being found in apes. And from the evolutionary perspective, which acknowledges the limited carrying capacity of all territories and of the world itself, it is maladaptive to allow one’s lineage – family, clan, or ethnic group to be replaced by others.

The vital interest all societies have in controlling a territory also falsifies the assertion that national security consists solely of defending individual citizens from attack by vetting immigrants for terrorist connections as is already the practice with tourists. Unlike tourists, immigrants affect the receiving country’s identity and cohesion. Societies have a corporate interest in retaining national sovereignty, which entails control of a territory, which in turn implies the will to defend against displacement in that territory. Inviting the world to a country as prosperous as Australia would result in the displacement of the Australian people inside their historical homeland.

The calibre of open-borders arguments raises questions. How could the research documented above be ignored – not even hinted at – by a professional academic in the age of google? Individual scholars are technically responsible for covering the literature bearing on their research. But in this case there is the mitigating circumstance of the general state of the social sciences in Australia and overseas. Three weeks after Prof. Bagaric’s article appeared, I have not come across one academic rebuttal. The SMH has not published a reply by another professor pointing out the obvious empirical fallacies, the failures of scholarship, the sloppy and inflammatory language.

Neither has there been a storm of denunciation by colleagues or the media; no multiply-signed letters sent to newspapers defending the credibility of Deakin University or the humanities and social sciences. Nothing on radio or television. The online comments were overwhelmingly critical and were generally cogent but none of these authors identified as an academic. It seems that ordinary citizens have retained their common sense, while intellectuals are ominously silent.

Immigrants from impoverished countries do not provide overall benefits to advanced economies, though they help some employers by reducing wages. Inequality rises. In the United States, Third World immigration increases the size of the overall economy but reduces per capita incomes. It is the latter that affects living standards. Immigrants from different cultures differ dramatically in their educational performance and entrepreneurship for several generations.

Prof. Bagaric writes off the nation as essentially racist. Chris Berg, a research fellow at the Institute for Public Affairs, thinks that “[t]here’s really nothing that special about national borders or the nation itself.” This is a strong claim but it becomes clear that Mr. Berg thinks that a nation is a state, failing to make an elementary and important distinction. A nation is at its core an ethnic group living in its homeland, with shared elements of culture and means of communication. A nation can exist without its own state, an example being the Kurds. And most states are not limited to one nation’s territory. All nation states are built around a founding ethnic core. However even without this distinction Mr. Berg is wise to state that: “A nation is the most convenient mechanism by which the institutions of liberty can be delivered.”  True enough, but is that not a good reason for libertarians and all who treasure civil rights to defend national integrity?

The intellectual void surrounding the concept of the nation becomes most apparent when Mr. Berg wonders why an otherwise consistent libertarian, Murray Rothbard, thought that culture is worth defending by restricting immigration (p. 6). He quotes Rothbard’s reason thus: “[A]s the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the cultures and languages of these peoples.” Not a bad reason. It could be supported by other examples of regimes that have used the demographic weapon, such as China in Tibet or Indonesia in West Irian.

Australian policy makers should bear in mind that ethnic nationalism is still a powerful force that tears countries and empires apart and creates new nations. Recent examples are the dismemberment of the Soviet and Yugoslavian empires in the 1990s. When people are allowed to choose they vote for policies that make or keep them as the ethnic majority. Why would anyone want to become a minority in his own country?

How have so many scholars come to ignore accessible knowledge about human nature and interests?  Australia’s 39 universities employ thousands of lecturers and professors in relevant disciplines. Any one of them should be able to expose elements of the case for open borders. A first year student of social anthropology should know that borders have always been closed to replacement-level migration. Students of government and sociology should know in outline the cases for and against diversity. How can bold assertions such as those in the three articles examined here go unremarked? What is being taught at our universities?

A century ago the social sciences began suing for divorce from the biological sciences.[xx] Reconciliation began in the 1970s but sociology, political science, large sections of anthropology and much of the humanities remain aloof. Add to that the political straight jacketing of these fields, an important reason for their doctrinaire rejection of biology, and it is not surprising that we see utopian socialism of the most naive variety emanating unchallenged from the professoriate. The world of ideas is one arena in which diversity is an unalloyed benefit, where homogeneity demonstrably degrades standards.

The evidence refuting the case for open borders also applies to the scale and diversity of existing immigration policy. Any policy is suspect that threatens a country’s ecological sustainability, increases diversity or tends to subordinate the core ethnic group. Such a trend was already in place for several years before historian Geoffrey Blainey warned that immigration from non-traditional Asian source countries was outrunning its welcome in the mid 1980s.

Ethnic stratification is taking place. Aboriginal Australians remain an economic underclass and some immigrant communities show high levels of unemployment. Anglo Australians, still almost 70 percent of the population, are presently being displaced disproportionately in the professions and in senior managerial positions by Asian immigrants and their children. The situation is dramatic at selective schools which are the high road to university and the professions. Ethnocentrism is not a White disorder and evidence is emerging that immigrant communities harbour invidious attitude towards Anglo Australians, disparaging their culture and the legitimacy of their central place in national identity.

The democratic process has been prevented from correcting our maladaptive immigration policies due to bipartisanship – a long-term deal between the major political parties to keep immigration issues off the table at election time. The collusion began responsibly enough as a measure to facilitate assimilation during the massive post-WWII immigration program from Europe. By the 1970s bipartisanship served to shield both parties from majority objections while they profited from multicultural politics, garnering votes from immigrant communities in exchange for immigration favours. Arguably this collusion would have been difficult to sustain if a substantial number of academics and commentators had spoken truth to power.

Instead, the rapid transformation of Australia by mass Third World immigration has been a top-down revolution in which exclusivist politicised circles within academia have been complicit by commission and omission. Political leaders and citizens alike look to intellectuals for the facts and analysis needed to make wise policy. In technical matters we have been well served, but not with regard to issues of population and diversity. The policy failure is not limited to the present federal government. It goes back decades, as does the failure of the nation’s brain trust. Correction will necessitate tackling the intellectual and ideological corruption of the humanities and social sciences by reintroducing some intellectual diversity and free speech, the only way to reestablish open-minded scholarship and teaching.


Frank Salter is an Australian urban anthropologist and ethologist based in Europe who studies organisations and society using the methods and concepts of behavioural biology. He consults to business and government on human relations and ethnicity. His publications are listed at his website.