The We

Of all people, it’s got to be Bret Stephens who gets it:

Today’s social democracy falls apart on the contradiction between advocating nearly unlimited government largess and nearly unlimited immigration. “Abolish ICE” is a proper rallying cry for hard-core libertarians and Davos globalists, not democratic socialists or social democrats. A federal job guarantee is an intriguing idea — assuming the jobs are for some defined “us” that doesn’t include every immigrant, asylum-seeker or undocumented worker.

Without a defined “we”, also known as the nation-state, there’s no welfare. I dislike Stephens, to put it mildly, but why isn’t anybody else pointing out this centrally important fact?

We all laughed so hard at the “get the government out of my Medicare” folks but “I want open borders and a federal job guarantee” is the exact same thing. “I want the nation-state to go away but to keep giving.” It’s delusional, and what a shame that only an unsavory Bret Stephens has the brains to point out that there is no welfare without a defined “we.”


43 thoughts on “The We”

  1. With transportation and communication becoming ever easier, cheaper, and more available, the “we” is likely to be, within a century or so, the inhabitants of planet Earth. No one knows what form the transition will take–it is likely to be difficult– but I suspect this is inevitable, eventually.


    1. Planetary welfare distributed by a planetary government is a cute fantasy. That’s all it is, however. What is a lot more likely to occur while we are fantasizing – and is actually occurring already – is the complete evisceration of the welfare state by neoliberal forces.


      1. Planetary welfare distributed by a planetary government is a cute fantasy. That’s all it is, however.
        It is a cute fantasy now, but it is probable in the future. A century is a long time. I think it is quite likely by, say 2068, a century and a half from now.


  2. A German friend of mine has a great deal of faith in the EU as a way to keep peace, and says the answer to everything is broader and deeper integration. I do suppose world standards are good. But I have not yet come up with a satisfactory substitute for the well-tempered nation-state.


    1. “says the answer to everything is broader and deeper integration”

      That’s the German problem, they simply can’t have two ideas in their head at once (or ever grasp that other people might have different ideas).
      Most people in most EU states have had enough of integration (hence Brexit and recent victories of populist parties in Austria and Italy).
      But the goddamned German government (and their shrinking number of allies) are still screaming “no nation states! more integration” at the top of their lungs.
      Their tunnel vision would be cute if it weren’t so destructive.


  3. ‘Open borders’ is a straw man. If it becomes part of the official Dem platform, we can discuss.

    As for the immigration and welfare state.

    “Increases in immigration tend to improve the financial status of the Social Security program by a modest amount. Estimates by both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Social Security actuaries belie contentions that legalizing some undocumented immigrants, or increasing immigration in general, would impair the solvency of Social Security.”

    Bret Stephens remains a troll. Water is wet.


      1. Not even remotely the same thing and you know it.

        Like, you can look at dozens, even hundreds, of bills introduced by republicans to curtail women’s reproductive freedom.

        Can you tell me what democrats have done, legislatively, to open up the border? Wearing a t-shirt that says ‘no boundaries’ doesn’t count.


        1. The leadership of both parties favor a de facto open border with Mexico, the republicans like cheap labor without much rights (and who can be fired on a whim and replaced with the next poor schmuck who happens along) and democrats somehow think this will help them win elections with latinos who tend to be apathetic about elections and don’t necessarily favor tens of millions of the countrymen they were trying to get away from following them (much the way Clarissa would not necessarily welcome tens of thousands of Ukrainians moving to St Louis).
          Neither party wants to put it in their platform because then they could be held responsible for the outcome.


          1. Yeah, I’ve always been very puzzled by the automatic assumption that Latinos are a uniform voting group that would automatically support the idea of more Central Americans in the US. I’m not sure many people even realize how many animosities and contradictions exist between people of different countries. Dominicans and Haitians, Mexicans and Guatemalans, Mexicans and Peruvians, etc etc, it’s not pretty. And then there are Venezuelans and Cubans who are being massively lost because of the use of the term Democratic Socialists.

            It’s so much more complicated than “Hispanics vote Democrat because they want open borders.”


            1. “animosities and contradictions exist between people of different countries. Dominicans and Haitians, Mexicans and Guatemalans, Mexicans and Peruvians, etc etc, it’s not pretty”

              IME everybody hates Mexicans (partly jealousy of proximity to the US) and Argentinians (because…. you know… Argentinians….) and there’s lots of neighborly hatred. I remember when I was dealing with Peruvians, Bolivians and Chileans at the same time – they got along fine as long as they never talked about history…


          2. There is another aspect to this that nobody is mentioning because it doesn’t serve anybody’s agenda.

            In Florida last month I met a young woman who is being shipped out to the US to work as a maid by her patriarchal family as a cash cow for the whole family. Her children are taken away from her by the family because she needs to work and bring in the money. She hates it here. She’s devastated but you don’t say no to the parents in patriarchal societies even if they are eating you alive.

            Porousness of borders is a phenomenon that is having a negative impact on many economies around the world. The non-existent border between Russia and Ukraine has long been an enormous problem for both economies. In Ukraine, a huge number of young people are being sucked out of the country to work in menial jobs. They never make a career, never progress anywhere, they are running stupidly after a dream of prosperity they see in stupid soaps.

            This is a complicated issue that can’t be rah-rahed away with slogans.


            1. And one last comment to get this out of my system. Many folks approach this from the neoliberal perspective of seeing people as freely choosing customers who shop around easily and freely for better lifestyle options. But that’s not how life works in most places of this planet. That’s not how most people see themselves.

              I have a whole bunch of relatives living in Russia as undocumented migrant workers. I wish that border had been closed, is all I can say.


            2. “There is another aspect to this that nobody is mentioning because it doesn’t serve anybody’s agenda.”

              It actually serves the agenda of those of us who don’t hate the nation state and see it as the best protector of individual rights and social mobility (as flawed as it is, nothing better has come along and there’s nothing remotely better on the horizon). But that’s a constituency that no mainstream faction is interested in supporting.


              1. Take maquiladoras. Everybody seems to agree it’s a horrible thing when young women from Mexico and Guatemala leave their families and communities and go to work at these horrible maquiladoras close to the border because global capital needs to exploit their labor. I think everyone agrees that this stinks.

                But when these same young women move a few miles north across the border for the exact same reason of being exploited, it suddenly becomes a great thing and a huge victory for progressivism. It only gets worse for the women, with the illegality and the language, etc. But we are supposed to see it as a great solution that maquiladoras aren’t.


            3. “Porousness of borders is a phenomenon that is having a negative impact on many economies around the world”

              In your own field you must have noticed how the US has become a safety valve for internal and external problems in Latin America – anytime there’s a conflict the losers head for the US which means that nobody’s learning about successful conflict resolution (of the kind desperately needed).

              If Polish people in the 1980s could make it to West Germany or Sweden as easily as Latin Americans can make into the the US then there still might be a Polish People’s Republic as many frustrated with the system would simply decamp rather than make the effort to improve things.


              1. In Ukraine, the border has been mostly shut down for incomers since the war but not so much for outgoers. The country is losing the most productive and energetic part of the population that is lured by the hope of having a bigger TV and a newer smartphone into the role of despised illegal serfs in Russia. Closing the borders is now #1 issue in the upcoming presidential election.

                And it’s exactly what you say about Poland. Ukraine lived this hypothetical and remained Russia’s colony 25 years after Independence.


    1. Au contraire mi amigo. Lots of people want both, they just haven’t thought through the consequences of trying to have both at the same time. And the media (and politicians) in the West do nothing to suggest that it’s an either or situation.


      1. I personally know people who passionately want both and get very pouty when encountering any attempt to discuss it. Very smart, highly educated people. It’s mystifying. It’s as if an addiction to feeling virtuous erased all intellect.


          1. Those hard, inedible strawberries, yes, and grapes for cheap wine. That’s not all berries, grapes, and other crops by any means. It’s also not raising the seedlings (also for trees), you need people for this. And the point is that even with decent pay you cannot get native-born or Americans, or enough of them, to do these jobs. Painting, too. And/or you can, but they don’t do well, don’t stay — have you ever picked fruit??? Someone who knows how can choose what’s ripe, do it fast and also pack it such that it does not bruise. And you have to struggle with the tree, have it stick you with spines, etc. – which a skilled person knows how to avoid. I am telling you, most of this work is at least “semiskilled” and I don’t know how a plumber wouldn’t be considered full-on skilled —


              1. In our state you can’t do anything that even remotely looks like plumbing work unless you are a licensed plumber. It’s major pet peeve with handymen.


              2. It was 20-30 years ago that they started to get bad. Before that we had normal strawberries here. I am not sure what the hard ones are for, i.e. what their intended use is.


              3. A lot of fruit is bred to look good and withstand shipping and also machine handling. Hence Florida tomatoes suck and the proliferation of Tommy Atkinson mangoes (which also suck). I don’t know how the tastier local varieties of strawberries freeze (there’s a lot of people making smoothies year round.)


              4. We actually found amazing local tomatoes while in Florida. It was probably a fluke. Or maybe they were so good because they were intended to sell right where grown. Klara got really into today thanks to them. It was tomatoes three times a day.


              5. Locally produced strawberries in Poland are still great but only available for about two months (if that). The same goes for lots of locally grown fruit, amazing taste but short availability (and imported stuff suffers from ‘transported too long’ syndrome,


          2. In our state handymen flout the law on this plumbing issue, if they’re confident. But of course it isn’t wise to flout any other laws if you’re also undocumented.


    1. To be clear I’m all in favor of seasonal work visas (not tied to a single employer) for that would want them and return to their country when they expire (including guarantees from the Mexican governemnt, for example) to not rob them on their way back.


        1. The seasonal idea is for agriculture (as operates in a lot of Europe, imperfectly but probably better than in the US).

          There’s also the idea of valuing employees and paying them a living wage, as un-American (and un-progressive) as that sounds.

          At present there’s a de facto immigration policy with Mexico that amounts to semi-institutionalized serfdom and I cannot conceive of how anything thinks that’s a good idea.


          1. There was recently a bill that was going to legalize the Dreamers. Neither party supported it to get it passed. This tells me everything I need to know about the sincerity of people’s compassion even for the Dreamers who everybody agrees are not to blame for anything.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. The point is this: US likes the serfdom. It’s cheap. AND in addition, paying a living wage isn’t even working. You’ve got places paying $16/hr plus benefits, 401K, vacation days, etc. and can STILL only get immigrants. Re seasonal, then you have to have people who have a place to go to and something to do there. And you have to be able to spare them. Here there are different crops being harvested in different places all the time, and others being planted and grown. People are kind of needed. It isn’t like the vendimia or something, one big grape harvest, although we’ve got that too. The bottom line is this: even with a decent wage it doesn’t seem possible to attract USians to these jobs. Maybe wages need to go up still further, I wonder what it would take.


  4. I don’t know that the people trying to leave Mex./C.A. are in a position to force a solution if they don’t. They need a job and safety guarantee where they are. Meanwhile in California they can’t get US people to pick crops. It seems that the best of these jobs are now offering $16/hr, 401(K), etc., but only immigrants want them. It’s a real problem since farmers are having to quit, consider moving operations abroad, etc.


  5. OT:

    It’s always 1846-48 somewhere. I’m surprised I haven’t seen any dumb think pieces about the Mexican American War lately linking it to the “wall” and anxiety about “the border.” It supposedly serves this long simmering American anxiety and helps Mexican oligarchs/presidents define themselves against pinche yanquis even as “Mexico and Mexicans” serve as metonyms/synecdoche for “Central & South America” and “immigrants, the sucky kind.” If you want to get ridiculous, both nations get great mileage out of this antagonism.

    Also in 1848 which may or may not be related:– All of these European and South American revolutions!

    The Seneca Falls Convention Women and their rights, amirite?


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