Who Owns a Country?

“There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks,’ even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.” — Barak Obama, 11/25/14

As I see it, a country is like a garden. Run well, the garden will make food. Run badly, you end up with a bunch of dirt.

As much as anarchist philosophy appeals to me, unfortunately, running a garden well requires at least some coherent strategy bundled up with some property rights, otherwise obvious issues arise–if you’re not guaranteed rights to your garden from year to year, you have no interest in building up the soil, and end up with dry dirt. If just anyone can come eat your produce, they probably will, and you’ll have nothing to show for your effort. If a neighbor can dump their trash on your property, they often will.

Countries are obviously more complicated than gardens, but much of a country’s success or failure depends on how well it is run. North and South Korea, for example, began with very similar conditions, but now are radically different due to communism being kinda like trying to run a country while throwing bricks at yourself.

The point of gov’t is to make running the country easier by having a coherent decision-making and executing system in place, instead of making it up from scratch or trying to get 300 million people to all cooperate at the same time. It is the gov’t’s ethical duty to look out for the interests of its citizens and run the country to their benefit, because, frankly, no one else will. If the American gov’t doesn’t take care of Americans, the Canadian gov’t is unlikely to step in and do the job.

(Note: this does not countenance aggression against other countries.)

Unfortunately, governments experience all sorts of mission creep and sometimes do dumb things like communism. Or if you’re an American, the Republicans try to take all of your produce and give it to corporations, while Democrats want to tear down your garden wall and let anyone who walks by snack on your orchard. (Leading, pathetically, to the idea that the best strategy is to try to prevent the gov’t from actually governing at all.)

As an American citizen, I assert that Americans do, in fact, have a right to determine who does an does not come over their borders. We may decide to let in anyone who wants to come. We may decide to let in no one. But that is our decision, our right to make. All of us have that right, not just the Indians.

(Last time I checked, “Indian” was the preferred term by a small margin, with “Native American” reserved for more academic uses, like Anthropology.)

I happen to have some Indian ancestry (I happen to have ancestry from a fair number of groups.) This does not mean I have any more right to determine what goes on in this country than any other citizen. A citizen is a citizen. We have equal rights.

To say that Americans don’t have the right to run their own country… You cannot say that, and still claim to be acting in the interests of Americans, the gov’t’s one and only purpose.

Of course, that does not mean the policies involved are wrong. (There is nothing to stop a dictator from imposing good policies. Unfortunately, there’s not much to stop them from imposing bad policies.)

So, how do we understand the POTUS saying something anti-democratic, and that many people would interpret as basically treasonous? Surely the president doesn’t actually have any such intentions.

To return to our previous discussion of memes, the term “American” does not necessarily mean “all citizens of the US.” Rather, the term is taken to mean the remnant population of conservative whites. I think the statement actually means, not “Americans have no right to determine who enters their country,” but “Conservative whites have no right to determine who enters this country,” which is a more sensible statement, given that there are plenty of people in the country who are not conservative whites, and might have different opinions on the matter. (It is probably not much of a coincidence that most new immigrants tend to vote for the democrats.)

Of course, when giving conservatives the finger, I think it reasonable to consider whether the policy being pursued is actually in the best interests of everyone already here, but that’s a separate matter.

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