"To Boldly Go", or "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"- The Immigration Debate and the Guardian-Trader Syndromes

Jmaurone's picture
Submitted by Jmaurone on Wed, 2018-03-21 05:00

"The “Guardians” would be the defenders of structure and order, and the “Traders” are the explorers and bring in fresh ideas. The traders (touting "diversity is our strength") would tout the utopian, Star Trek view of all neighbors living in peace, trading and learning from each other, and that closed societies breed stagnation and decay, and the Guardians would protect the society from internal and external aggression, acting like an immune system, protecting the integrity of society; "good fences make good neighbors."

On a previous thread, "Obleftivism's Egalitarianism - Objectivism's Selectivity", I made this post, in response to the idea of "self-selected immigrants", questioning the false dichotomy of "open" vs. "closed" borders. I suggested the idea of "active borders", in the spirit of Rand's opposition of  being either "open-minded" vs. "close-minded", in favor or being "active minded."

This got me thinking about another related topic regarding dichotomies, and it's one that I think explains, in part, the schism of immigration beyond "left vs. right." It's something that goes beyond political parties, into something more pyschological and philosopical, so I think it also explains the division even among Libertarians and Objectivists. (I haven't seen anyone else bring this up yet, in regard to immigration, so this is meant less as a developed argument, and more of an introduction of the topic to the discussion, and see what might stick...)

What I am thinking of is the "Guardian vs. Trader" syndrome, as described by Jane Jacobs in her book, Systems of Survival. (This argument is also present in von Mises’ Human Action.) I don't have the time to explain in depth. But basically, the “Guardians” would be the defenders of structure and order, and the “Traders” are the explorers and bring in fresh ideas. The traders (touting "diversity is our strength") would tout the utopian, Star Trek view of all neighbors living in peace, trading and learning from each other, and that closed societies breed stagnation and decay, and the Guardians would protect the society from internal and external aggression, acting like an immune system, protecting the integrity of society; "good fences make good neighbors." Jacobs argues that both are necessary, in their proper place and context. It also suggests that each syndrome would have appeal to individuals based on their personal psychology, not just their professed philosophy and beliefs. When integrated, they work as a whole. The problem arises when one system intrudes on the need of the other. I have to note that Jacobs, herself, was not libertarian, but she could not be described as neither left or right, either, and she has a strong following among many libertarians. That is probably why her ideas are appealing to some Objectivists, as well, since there is overlap with Objectivist ideas. As I wrote before, as Objectivism goes beyond "open-minded vs. closed-minded" in favor of "active-minded", so the integration of guardians and traders suggests neither "open-vs. closed borders", but "active borders." But then, I would also have to ask if the Jacobs and von Mises theories have also introduced philosophical confusion into the Objectivist/libertarian debate on immigration.

I don’t have time for a full discussion of her ideas, but this list is a quick breakdown of the differences between guardians and traders:

Guardian Syndrome

    •    Shun trading

    •    Exert prowess

    •    Be obedient and disciplined

    •    Adhere to tradition

    •    Respect hierarchy

    •    Be loyal

    •    Take vengeance

    •    Deceive for the sake of the task

    •    Make rich use of leisure

    •    Be ostentatious

    •    Dispense largesse

    •    Be exclusive

    •    Show fortitude

    •    Be fatalistic

    •    Treasure honor

Commerce Syndrome

    •    Shun force

    •    Compete

    •    Be efficient

    •    Be open to inventiveness and novelty

    •    Use initiative and enterprise

    •    Come to voluntary agreements

    •    Respect contracts

    •    Dissent for the sake of the task

    •    Be industrious

    •    Be thrifty

    •    Invest for productive purposes

    •    Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens

    •    Promote comfort and convenience

    •    Be optimistic

    •    Be honest

 

It’s easy to see how this power struggle can play out among the Left and Right, especially when it comes to immigration. It might seem odd to observe such a struggle over immigration among Objectivists, however.  (I find it less odd among libertarians, given the philosophical eclecticism there.) Both sides seem convinced that Rand would back their respective positions. It becomes less odd, however, if one looks past the political divisions and see it not as “left vs. right”, but as “guardians” and “traders”, as both are a part of Objectivism.  Yes, Rand was for free trade, and against censorship, and, yes, she was an immigrant, herself. Her fictional characters also defied the government and did not recognize a corrupt legal system to judge them. But, also, yes, she sided with the American government over the native Americans, whom she regarded as savages, she was not an anarchist, but a minarchist, and believed in objective laws, and the right of individuals and nations to self-defense.

As Jeff Riggenbach wrote, in In Praise of Decadence, there is a perception of “the two Ayn Rands”, the “anarchism” of Atlas Shrugged, that the 60’s counter-culture could appreciate, and the more conservative side found in her economics and matters of defense that the conservatives could appreciate. So, it’s no real surprise that immigration is a divisive matter, today. But I suggest that the schism is not a matter of Objectivism being a duel between “left and right”, but of “guardian vs. trader”; rather, the context between the two being lost. Since Objectivism holds a belief in absolutes, it’s tempting for some to reify certain principles to be absolute. To which I’d invoke Rand: yes, they are absolute, but in context. (For example, times of war require different actions than times of peace.)

(I'd be tempted, here, to introduce a discussion of Stefan Molyneux's "Universally Preferable Behavior" as it compares and contrasts to Objectivism's "absolute-in-context" stance. I haven't studied his proposed theory fully enough to do so, but I've seen the idea infiltrate objectivish-libertarian forums enough to have a bearing on this topic. It does seem to fit in to the discussion, in regards to holding applying philosophical ideas as absolute-in-context vs. as a "Platonic ideal".  It's also an interesting case study since Molyneux, himself, has come to embrace Trump at the expense of libertarian purity, to great criticism, among other topics that he has changed his mind on. As he's explained, he's an empiricist, and goes where the evidence goes, and if it contradicts his beliefs, then they either have to accommodate the new information or be trimmed of bad ideas, an idea which Rand herself suggested. My interest, there, is less the rightness or wrongness of his theory, though that IS of interest, and more about how it reflects in him a personal shift between the guardian and trader syndromes, implicitly, if not explicitly. And, finally, it's a case study in how things go wrong when those on one side of the guardian-trader syndrome cannot or refuse to do so.)

I’ve seen talk of Jane Jacobs ideas on Objectivist forums for years, now. My personal observation is that those presenting the idea of the “guardian-trader syndrome” were leaning favorably towards the “trader” side, while using von Mises as reference. I also noted that those people leaned more towards the view of Objectivism as an “open-system". This topic usually came to my attention in discussions regarding 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, and the Trader Syndrome was presented as a rebuke to the "neo-con" Objectivists. It's been years since I've read those blogs/posts, and I hope I haven't misrepresented any one's arguments, so, then, as a reference, here is an article from the old SOLO site, along with the comments that followed: "Two Worldviews-The Trader and Taking Syndromes".)  And this is something that I personally haven’t studied in depth, regarding immigration.  But I do think there is a something there that explains where the Objectivist movement is today (Obleftivism? But also, see the "bleeding heart"/"left-leaning" libertarian), regarding immigration. Is there a leftist influence in the Jacobs/von Mises arguments  serving as a contributing factor to confusion in the Objectivist/libertarian argument on immigration?  (That said, what I'm suggesting is more concerned with the psychological and philosophical causes of disagreement in the immigration debate. I’m not quite sure that my theory totally explains the current paradoxical, (and IMO, baffling, if not hypocritical) view being touted by the likes of Yaron Brook regarding  the promotion of immigration in the U.S. versus advocating closed borders for Israel…)


Idiocracy

Jmaurone's picture

"The more the average intelligence of the population drops, the more the frustration which this quotation points at will become severe for the smarter amongst us."

IDIOCRACY wasn't supposed to be a documentary, but here we are...

A stupid(er) population

BrunoT's picture

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." - George Carlin

The more the average intelligence of the population drops, the more the frustration which this quotation points at will become severe for the smarter amongst us.

Active borders

BrunoT's picture

The active mind analogy I think is interesting.

A selective immigration policy is in fact an "active" policy, actively seeking, choosing, rejecting, accepting people.

Immigration is of fundamental importance because it is a policy that affects all others in potentially drastic ways.

Selective immigration is the foundation of a free system of government.

What is a country? It is first and foremost its people. Immigration affects the very composition of the people.

The constitution and system of government are written and created for a specific people by a specific people.

Especially a democratic republic has a link to the people like no other system, because it is based on the principle of representative government. Representing whom? The people.

Change the people, and the representation changes. Swap a first world population with a third world population, and you get a first world country which becomes a third world country.

Molyneux

BrunoT's picture

I am re-reading Molyneux's UBI with care. I think it would be interesting to have a debate with him on his call-in show, his UBI vs Rand's egoism. Most interesting would be to hear how and why he rejected Rand's solution to the is-ought gap.

Victory for Western Civilization

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

That victor, Viktor Orban, in Hungary is called a "rightwing nationalist" who defends "Christian culture". This is a linguistic and philosophical disaster. Using these hideous terms, victory for the Good Guys will be ten or a hundred times as hard. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban needs to be called an "upwing liberal" who defends "Greco-Roman" and "Renaissance-Enlightenment" culture and values. Ultimately, he is a neoliberal or fighter for Western liberalism, however slight.

Let's all go to Hungary

Lindsay Perigo's picture

There's ANTIFA, winning in America, with assistance from ARISIS. Then there's ANTIFILTH, winning in Hungary:

https://gellerreport.com/2018/...

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