Secretary of State John Kerry recently gave a commencement speech to Northeastern University graduates, wherein, amongst a whole lot of Trump bashing, he noted:

You’re about to graduate into a complex and borderless world.

Predictably, the conservative blogosphere has gone nonlinear over that comment. Kerry’s speech provides enough grist for both his defenders and detractors, and I won’t set about parsing the speech to determine which team’s got the better of it. Instead, I want to cover the “borderless” concept itself from two angles: the globalists’ and the libertarian’s.

Globalists have long envisioned a world where a supra-national authority counterbalances nations’ selfishness and the disputes the arise out conflicting interests. Since the “natural order” has produced nations, they believe that achieving their goal requires imposition of order from above. Thus, the unelected Brussels bureaucrats that run the EU. Thus, the freak-out over the Brexit. Thus, Kerry’s reference to a “complex” world. And, thus, Kerry’s conflation of the physical wall that Trump is proposing with the demise of virtual borders that the Information Age has engendered.

The problem the globalists are facing is that human nature doesn’t align with their technocratic and autocratic fantasies. Humans have spontaneously organized themselves into nations throughout history for a reason, and that reason is our biological encoding. Therein lies the source of the resistance to globalization and the rise of nationalism/nativism in response to the perception of overreach on the part of the globalists. In turn, the globalists are having hissy fits that their status as Best-and-Brightest isn’t being met with the proper respect, deference, and acceptance of their supremacy. To conclude that the world will become “borderless” is to:

  1. Presume that the Best-and-Brightest will be able to impose their dictatorial will on a reluctant populace.
  2. Ignore the very essence of human nature i.e. our tribalism, our desire to protect that which is ours (including property) and our distrust of “other.”
  3. Ignore the reactions to globalization, both here and abroad, that should tell those “Best-and-Brightest” that their ivory tower fantasies aren’t selling.

Libertarians share a bit of commonality on the topic of borders and nations with globalists in that we believe in the free and robust movement of people. However, libertarians abhor the top-down management that globalists seek. Nor do we demand that people organize in any particular fashion, only that such organizations are voluntary rather than coerced. Wanna form a commune with communal property? Go for it – just make sure it’s only with people who want to be part of it.

However, and here I will switch from broad-brush statements about libertarians to my individual and personal beliefs, I believe in open borders but I do not believe in “borderless.” I believe in free trade, which includes the free and robust movement of people, but a nation that does not control its borders is not a nation. Without border control, there is no law, no enforcement of legislation, no protection of individuals’ rights. There is no national sovereignty, there is no means of national defense, and there is no awareness of what moves into or out of the country.

I feel it necessary to add such a qualifier to my “open borders” self-description because it’s too easy for others to misconstrue what I believe and advocate. Borders and immigration are routinely conflated, but they are very different concepts. They are related, yes, but a debate about more robust immigration shouldn’t be conflated with a claim that such would obviate our borders. In fact, I’d argue the opposite. By mitigating the pressures that drive illegal immigration, it becomes easier to secure borders. If the demand for certain types of workers is sated through legal channels (e.g. guest worker programs), and if the supply of people who want to come to America is sated through legal channels (e.g. more green cards), there will be fewer risking the illegal form of border crossing, and it’ll be easier to manage the border.

Some might think it presumptuous of me to challenge the opinion of someone as elevated, estimable, and erudite as John Kerry. Too bad. Kerry’s wrong, in intent, in expectation, and in prediction. The world will not become borderless, and a borderless world would not be a better world.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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