Thursday, March 3, 2011

The intellectual meltdown of libertarianism in Sweden

Yesterday the right-of-center coalition together with the environmentalists voted to guarantee tax-funded health care and schooling for illegal immigrants (In Swedish media the term used to obfuscate is "papperslösa", "those with no papers"). In addition, illegal immigrants will be allowed to start businesses. This decision is today cheered by Swedish libertarians, who also supported amnesty a couple of years ago.

The most prominent libertarians of intellectuals of the 20th century - Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Robert Nozick - all opposed open borders for welfare states. But today's libertarians are not as thoughtful. They are motivated by simplistic arguments, such as borders being created by politicians and therefore automatically bad, or that since free trade with China is good, free trade with people must also be good to. But unlike Chinese plastic toys, immigrants collect welfare, impose negative social externalities such as crime on others, and vote themselves even more benefits.

Historically socialists fought to abolish private rights and property, while modern socialists and libertarians fight to abolish our collective rights and properties. The most prominent of these are rights we have granted each other in democracies to vote over common decisions, backed by the threat of coercion.

One Swedish libertarian thus wrote about expanding the welfare state to illegal immigrants: "This is what solidarity is about". (Ayn Rand would surely have been proud to read this).

A blogger at the most important libertarian journal, Neo, fervently defends this latest expansion of the welfare state, with the argument that Sweden is already spending a lot on other stuff. By this logic, the bigger the government already is, the more we should expand it.

Modern libertarianism is a self-destructive ideology. This is because the unskilled immigrant population that open borders invites is an exceptionally infertile ground for libertarian values. Consequently open borders in a democracy will automatically lead to a welfare state as the immigrants sooner or later become the majority of voters.

To no ones surprise, rather than becoming libertarian, immigrants loyally support the Social Democratic welfare state, as their economic self interests and the political culture of their societies would predicts. In the latest Swedish election, only 43% of Swedes but 77% of non-western immigrants voted for the left (this was an unusually bad year for the left, who got 92% of the immigrant vote in 2002!). In the United States, where while only 35% of non-Hispanic whites prefer higher taxes in return for more government services, the figure is 64% for all Hispanics, and 65% for second generation Hispanics.

Benefits to illegal immigrants are unpopular among ordinary swedes, but popular amongst the elites. The elites in Sweden no longer believe or act as if they have been delegated their power and position in life by the public. Instead, they look down at ordinary Swedes as unwashed rubes, identifying instead with elites in other countries. This is the basics of what I call the "The Economist" Class [sic]. This is incidentally the reason why the European Union is ever expanding, elites in Europe identify more with other elites in Europe rather than with non-elites in their respective country.

The ideology of the elites tells them that since all humans are equal, they owe no more to the Swedes than to any random inhabitant of the earth. This despite the fact that it is the Swedes they represent, they are the one who voted for them (if they are politicians), who pay their membership dues (unions), who work for them (industry), who read and trust them to provide the truth (media) or who pay our grants and financed our educations (academia).

Pundits who have only absorbed Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and Hayek on a superficial level (many seem to just have read the abstract) today view the virtue of noblesse oblige as obsolete.

A minority of libertarians in Sweden realize that these laws have negative consequences for our country, but feel compelled to support open borders because of ideology, which tells them that the government has no right to control borders. Those to the left who don't like this law are also stuck in their ideology, since that tells them that because all humans are equal, it must be racist to give free health care to Swedes but not to an Albanian who broke our laws and crossed our border.

Hayek and other idea-historians consider Anglo-Saxon conservatism a sub-category of classical liberalism (what Swedes simply call liberalism). However, unlike libertarianism, intellectual conservative theory does not have any problem reconciling policies that benefit society with policies derived from ideological axioms.

The nation state is a mutual defense and cooperation pact, something we have created through the implicit social compact to improve collective decision making. We therefore have more obligations and responsibilities towards other citizens (needless to say regardless of their race), than we do towards other random people on the planet. This is particularly true for anyone who has been entrust elite status in politics or academia or intellectual life, and particularly true for people like me who have been given the gift of citizenship by Swedes. The responsibility for the welfare of Albanian children meanwhile belongs to Albania.

Any ideology that leads you to a conflict what you believe is good for society and what your ideology compels you to believe is flawed by design. This is why Anglo-Saxon conservatism at its finest is the lack of an ideology.

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