Immigration reciprocity is nasty business. If you’ve ever been to Brazil as an American, you’ve seen this in action. It works like this: However difficult country A makes it for citizens of country B to visit, country B then enacts the same rules for country A. Which means going through an insane amount of work and sending off your passport just to get into Brazil, because we do the same thing to Brazilians. They adopt our rules to show us how punitive those rules feel.
Make no mistake: The fault is ours. It shouldn’t be this difficult to visit another country. Ever. You should be able to show up, present your documents, and your lack of outstanding criminal warrants — and agreement to follow local laws and pay local taxes — allows you entry.
If the same xenophobia that led to the Brexit also leads to harsher immigration policies and procedures, British citizens will likely suffer reciprocity from other EU members. Right now, you can drive the chunnel and go from England to France without stopping. Just like you can currently drive from Texas to California without having to get bureaucrats involved (not counting the produce police on the way into New Mexico). That ease of access will likely cease. Which is absolutely terrible, not just for human freedom, but for economic growth.
Imagine natural gas exploration taking off in North Dakota and not being able to get enough people through the red tape to take the jobs. The private sector is more flexible and swifter to pivot than law-makers. Hardening borders is terrible for economic growth. But it’s not just economics; imagine only being able to date someone in your home state because of the complexities of job requirements and immigration woes (I’ve recently gone through this with a girlfriend from the UK). These are the real-world consequences of protectionism and xenophobia.
What’s disgusting is that older voters lead the way with their intolerance, and they aren’t as greatly affected by their actions. They are moving out of the workforce. They’ve already married and settled with their loved ones. Geographic isolation is less harmful to those who have settled down; it’s terrible for those still looking for their place in the world. Which is why voters under 30 overwhelmingly chose to stay in the EU. It’s also a matter of subsequent generations being more tolerant and less hate-ridden than those who came before. Progress, as they say, happens one funeral at a time.
The Brexit has its parallels around the globe. Nationalism and isolationism are on the rise. What’s really amazing about the racism and xenophobia here in the US is that it’s completely unfounded. Between 2009 and 2014, the net flow between Mexico and the US was 140,000 Mexicans LEAVING this country. Our economic stagnation, Mexico’s meager economic progress, and family reunification, were all factors. Perhaps it’s fitting that the hero of this movement here in the States, Donald Trump, got his facts exactly backwards when he celebrated Scotland voting to leave the EU. His adherents get the facts exactly backwards as well. Opening borders with the rest of the world would not result in a stampede. It would result in a natural flow in both directions.
Racism is the root of this nationalism, plain and simple. If it weren’t, we’d see people picketing high school and college graduation ceremonies for all the looming jobs about to be stolen. We’d see intolerance toward pregnant women and kids in strollers for all the jobs these new Americans are going to steal. We’d hear more about these dastardly Canadians.
The xenophobes are not worried about population growth, not really. Population growth leads to economic growth. A newborn child and an immigrant are both going to consume and trade just as much as they work (more so, with debt accumulating over time). That means every new body is more jobs created through more spending. When you see an immigrant, see a shopper, an eater, a renter. Just like you do a newborn. The fact that we don’t see it this way says it all.
Look, borders are a dumb fucking idea. Lines on maps are necessary to a point, but not when it comes to immigration, the free flow of people, or the free flow of trade. These bureaucratic walls are only beloved by those who fear that the makeup of the populace will change (usually by growing darker). But it’s the next generation that has to live with the consequences of these protectionist schemes.
Let’s take the idea of Brexit a bit further and liken it to the United States fracturing. Imagine a different currency in all 50 states. Different rules and regulations. Our political leaders would waste more and more of their time debating trade deals, which would mean more lobbying from special interest groups who try to get import duties on everything they make, while reducing duties on the raw materials they need, with everyone else fighting for the exact opposite. He who provides the nicest steak (pick your bribe) wins.
It’s ironic to me that the small-government side of the political spectrum is all about the proliferation of governments. I have heard this argument that bureaucrats in Brussels are corrupt and self-serving, as if bureaucrats anywhere, at any time, have been anything less. The only way to achieve smaller governments, so that private sector initiative can move the world forward rather than backward, is to have fewer governments, not a lot more of them with smaller borders. To argue that the United States would benefit by being 50 separate countries is absolute lunacy. Just look at Germany before and after Bismark. Or Italy of the city states. Yet this is what the pro-Brexit crowd is applauding, especially once Scotland votes for independence and the EU breaks up further. They’re applauding the equivalent of the dissolution of the United States. That’s how fucking dumb their stance is.
The end goal should be open borders around the world. A single currency, and people free to live wherever they want, not imprisoned by where they are born. This is a long way off, but baby steps must be made. Every free trade pact and loosening of immigration policies is a move in the right direction. Will stronger economies have to buttress weaker economies for a while? Of course. California and Texas already pay an outsized proportion of our collective defense fund than Alabama or Rhode Island. Part of this is population numbers and part is economic vitality and tax revenues. Just as Germany helps Portugal, so too does Florida help South Dakota. This is a good thing. It’s how it should work.
The reason it works in the United States is that we have a collective identity which overrides (most) of our tribalism. Yes, there is still a lot of regional pride and rancor, but we stand together where it counts. The fix for our world economy will be to train ourselves to do the same. We need to SEE each other as humans first and foremost. We need to feel it. Believe it. Let it pervade us.
The reflex to be protectionist with our trade must be countered by the knowledge that any rise in wealth abroad pays dividends to everyone. China developing a middle class means more spending and tourism. It means more growth for US companies. It will also lead to the movement of jobs back to the US as wages go up, and also to the next areas of the world to rise out of poverty, like Africa. There is no way you can make the argument that an impoverished and uneducated California or North Carolina would ever be a good thing for this country, so how can anyone think an impoverished and uneducated country would ever be good for the world?
What we are seeing around the world right now is an ugly spasm of hate in response to a recent wave of globalization. It has happened several times before in human history, as greater enmeshing results in an almost immunological response. The body rejects the transplanted. But it’ll get better. Progress comes one generation at a time. The real lesson here is that the hopeful and optimistic youth need to be as motivated as the angry and the hateful who tend to be older. Anger motivates people to vote more than hope does. You can’t sleep in and trust that the right outcome will just happen. You’ve got to get out and make it happen.
This November, I would love to see a crushing defeat of hatred and racism and xenophobia. A crushing defeat. I don’t think it will happen, because the fearful will get riled up and will go stand in line to vote, stamping their feet and harumphing. Those with a positive outlook will trust the polls, that a narrow victory is inevitable, that their friends will do the heavy lifting for them, and that all will be okay. Trump and those who support his brand of xenophobia will likely lose by percentage points (even if the electoral math is much wider). But it shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be close. This should be a crushing defeat.
We should announce to the rest of the world — just like the colonies did over two hundred years ago — that the people here stand for the future and not for the past. We’ve been laggards on many social issues of late, losing our global leadership when it comes to ethical progress. Too slow to embrace marriage freedoms. Too slow to decriminalize marijuana. Too slow to reduce the number of guns on the streets. It would be great to set an example again. Even better if older voters had a change of heart and defied their fears by voting with compassion. Greater still if the Christian coalition voted as Jesus would. Imagine the man who embraced lepers confronting his followers who would loathe to hug someone with darker skin. But that’s where we stand. It doesn’t mean we have to.
Look, if you are reading this and you are offended, welcome to the club. I’m offended by myself and my prejudices. We are all racist to some degree. It requires fighting off inborn and genetic tendencies to not be xenophobic, just as it’s damn hard not to overeat and over-consume. There are very clever experiments that can measure this, and one of the shocking results is that people who like to think — who truly believe — that they aren’t prejudiced actually are. So anyone saying “I’m not racist” is lying to themselves. That goes for all of us. It’s a question of degree. It’s also a question of intellectual honesty. But mostly, it’s a question of what we’re going to do about it.
This November, I’m going to vote for a career politician that I’ve never been fond of. To me, this is an even greater rebuke of Trump’s xenophobia than it would be if I voted for a politician that I’m in love with. This is not quite me hugging a leper (I think Hillary will make a great president), but you get the idea. If you didn’t have to overcome your revulsion, you aren’t proving anything. That’s why, the more you disagree with Hillary, the more you’ve held against her over the years, the more meaningful your vote against Trump becomes.
And yes, it’s okay to vote against something. You can’t vote against something without also voting for something. This November, I get to vote for the United States to be an example again. An example of inclusion. Of liberty. Of trust. The fact that I’ll be voting for someone I disagree with is just ever sweeter. Standing up for what you believe in is more powerful when there’s something you have to overcome. This will be a chance to shout down bigots with my vote. And I’m not going to rely on the rest of the country to do that for me. I’m not going to take it for granted. I’m not going to fear the lines. I’m not going to wait for the day after to Google what any of this is about, or research what the fuck is going on. I want a landslide of love. I’m even willing to forgive all of you who want the exact opposite.
After we politely and democratically kick your motherfucking hate-filled asses in November.