Is Australia an ‘arbitrary nation state’?

“That said, it should be recognised that immigration is here to benefit native Australians and not the other way round.”

Why do you think that? Do you simply have no concern for people not born within the borders of your pretty arbitrary nation state? If not, why should foreigners matter less than Australians?

– Robert Wiblin, 2 March.

Robert’s point is a challenge for political philosophies with universalist ambitions, such as some forms of liberalism and egalitarianism. States are part of these liberal and egalitarian theories, to protect or enforce rights, but they are not nation-states and the people in them have no particular nationality. Individual rights and entitlements derive from an individual’s status as a human (‘human rights’), not their membership of any smaller group.

So on these accounts, a purist classical liberal would have no easy ideological grounds for limting geographic movement, and a purist egalitarian would have no grounds for denying the claims of poor people throughout the world to material support. Certainly there would be significant personal costs to both classical liberals and egalitarians from such policies, but being born into a rich and successful country is a piece of very good luck that is morally arbitrary.

In practice, of course, few classical liberals or egalitarians pursue this kind of thinking to its logical conclusion. Continue reading “Is Australia an ‘arbitrary nation state’?”