Yesterday, during Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro’s must-watch “Sunday Special” podcast conversation with prominent Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony, the author of “The Virtue of Nationalism” made a biblically grounded argument that “good borders make good neighbors.”
It is perhaps difficult to think of a less politically correct thing to say to a bipartisan American ruling class still hooked on the post-Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 nostrums of porous borders and a classical liberalism-inspired freer flow of cross-border labor, but Hazony — a personal friend, in the interest of full disclosure — is nonetheless absolutely correct. And it ought not to be too difficult to understand why.
The fundamental premise of Hazony’s award-winning 2018 tome is to lay out two competing visions for the governance of global affairs, and to argue in favor of one vision over the other. Those two visions are imperialism, which favors a globally oriented governance of monolithic rule via transnational institutions, and nationalism, which favors a nation-state-centric governance of disparate rule via sovereign nation-states.
There are a myriad of reasons for preferring the latter to the former, and the deepest and most existentially meaningful reasons are those that grasp at human nature itself. It is fundamentally inimical to human nature for people to outsource their sovereignty and self-determination to the whims and caprices of those external actors with whom those people do not share undergirding mutually interdependent bonds of loyalty. Those bonds of loyalty can only be nourished and sustained when the relevant polity shares some semblances of a common culture: Language, customs, traits, religious tradition, legal tradition, and so forth. Put even more simply, those bonds of loyalty can only be nourished and sustained when the relevant polity is a true nation, properly understood.
Yet nationalism is superior to imperialism/transnationalism for another reason that is less philosophically lofty but no less indispensable. In terms of most effectively ensuring relative global tranquility and diminishing the frequency of bloody conflicts, encouraging and emphasizing epistemologically modest national sovereignty is far preferable to encouraging and emphasizing epistemologically hubristic imperialism. Most of the great conflicts over the past millennium have involved one civilization frowning upon a foreign civilization and seeking to impose upon that foreign civilization its own political version of the good life.
A modern example is the bipartisan hubris of the neoconservative moralistic “Right” and Samantha Power-esque “responsibility to protect” moralistic Left that leads to nonsensical overseas attempts to impose our American values and way of life upon those nations whose values and way of life are entirely anathematic to our own. As a purely tactical and procedural means of discouraging bloody conflict, it makes sense to establish a baseline default rule of respecting the internal dealings of foreign nations. Pursuing a domestic legislative agenda oriented around the common good and Declaration of Independence-rooted natural rights theory is just and proper; what is improper is pursuing the exportation and ultimately forcible imposition of a foreign agenda of our American vision of the common good and Declaration of Independence-rooted natural rights theory.
As a basic matter of observing developments around the world over at least the past half-century or so — and going back even further to at least the ancient construction of the Great Wall of China — it is intuitive and obvious that strongly enforced borders are generally largely successful in deterring and thwarting would-be foreign aggression and revanchism. In 2017, Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute laid out just a handful of successful border walls/fences/security barriers in recent historical memory:
- Israel’s post-Second Intifada construction of a security barrier around much of Judea and Samaria had the effect of quickly reducing terrorism in Israel by upwards of 90%.
- The Polisario Front, a Cold War-era communist group committed to independence for Western Sahara, was largely contained after Morocco’s intensive fortification of its external barrier with Algeria.
- The longstanding hot spot that is the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan was relatively quelled by India’s nearby construction of a defensive border fence.
Indeed, there are countless other examples.
To resist the urge to forcibly export and impose one’s idiosyncratic domestic agenda unto others is to help decrease conflict and make the world a safer place. Good borders do indeed make good neighbors.