Jordan Peterson on Immigration

Jordan Peterson has made it clear how he feels about illegal immigration and national borders in general.  “Borders are reasonable! How about that!” Dr. Peterson exclaimed recently. Continuing that the “law is that which prevents one from doing something (such as stealing or illegal immigration).” National borders, Peterson says, are an example of one such useful law. 




“The law is the border that stops someone from stealing your laptop. And if it’s an Apple laptop, well, it’s the sort of laptop that a social justice warrior would carry. And then the social justice warrior is going to be very irritated if you happen to purloin their laptop.”

However for Jordan, like many issues, the issue of immigration and borders are yet another window into the personality profile that differentiates, on average, republicans and democrats.

“One of the things that really differs between liberals and conservatives, between the left and the right, is the right is into tight borders between things. It’s part of being conscientious. At every level. Conceptually, sexually, familially, provincially, nationally. The right says, “Look, let’s keep- let’s keep the borders between things pretty distinct.” And the left says, “Yeah, maybe not, because some of those borders are in the wrong place, and a little bit more free flow of information wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

This is where one might be tempted to accuse Jordan of painting a false dichotomy but he, like most academics, pulls back a little. Peterson admits the correct answer is most likely somewhere in the complicated middle. Peterson continues..

“And the thing is, they’re right, but so are the conservatives. And that’s why you have to talk. It’s like, well, we’ve got some borders, that’s a good thing. Maybe some of them need to be moved around a little bit. And that’s what the political dialogue is for.”

So in many ways we’ve just come full circle where we’re back to the initial argument about how best to proceed. A June 2019 by Gallup revealed that Americans are deeply divided about whether immigration should be kept at it’s present level, increased or decreased.

However the question posed may be too broad to draw any firm conclusions. It may change the calculus if, for example, the immigration increased but it was only H-1B recipients (foreign workers brought in to fulfill specialty occupations) that received the citizenship. This is how  Peterson wraps up his argument and we’ll give readers the rest of the dialogue before wrapping things up.

“Now you want immigrants to come in, especially if they’re the sorts of immigrants who are likely to contribute properly to the success of your polity. And lots of immigrants do that. I mean, I think the vast majority, for example, of entrepreneurs in the United States come from the Indian subcontinent. So great, you know. Bring them over. They’re highly educated, they’re extraordinarily productive, they make lots of new businesses. And then they pump money like ba- like mad back into India. Good deal. But that doesn’t mean that we have- we have an “Our arms are open to everyone,” immigration policy, because it’s complete rubbish. All that means is you’re not thinking about it.

Here’s a coda to that, for conservatives. Here’s something. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities. So we could say, look, there are a lot of countries in the world that are not governed well. The vast majority of them, right? And they’ve been not governed well forever. And to me, that means that there’s something wrong with the values that are held collectively by the people who’ve established those polities. Well, you shouldn’t be naïve and assume that merely because you moved them to a new country, they’re going to let their innate democratic longings flourish. It doesn’t work that way.

So if you stand up and say, look, you know, let’s be a little cautious. Let’s make sure that we don’t transform our society so rapidly that we lose what we have. Let’s be careful about that. That doesn’t mean that you’re a morally reprehensible demon. It just means that you’re conservative. And it’s a reasonable position to hold. So there’s no sense in apologizing to it.”

Peterson Stands With Durkheim and Jonathan Haidt

In good company, Jordan’s argument is reminiscient of the architect of modern Sociology,  Emile Durkheim. Durkheim coined the term “social integration” to refer to this complex process by which members entering a new society are treated and integrated. Not only is a topic of ongoing discussion and study in academia but it’s logic has been applied to numerous other fields. 

Fans of the spellbinding HBO series Show Me a Hero will be able to relate. The show prominently displays the attempt to put the “Defensible Space Theory” of city planning into action by relocating a handful of poor intercity families away from the projects and into new townhomes located in a predominantly white neighborhood in the late 1980s. 

As fans will remember, the biggest obstacle faced by families chosen for relocation, were that of integration with the white community. While certainly a product of racism on behalf of the existing neighborhood, Durkheim would say that this is something that is to be expected given our shared history of in-group and out-group violence. 

This was a point that Jonathan Haidt seemed to share during the Syrian refugee crisis when he wrote, about why Government’s should place their citizens’ interests over people in other countries: 

“There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms and history generally promotes trust. Having no such shared sense leads to the condition that the sociologist Émile Durkheim described as ‘anomie’ or normlessness. Societies with high trust, or high social capital, produce many beneficial outcomes for their citizens: lower crime rates, lower transaction costs for businesses, higher levels of prosperity, and a propensity toward generosity, among others.” 

Given that this is an age old issue that shows no signs of going away anytime soon, we figured some modesty and scholarship was in order. For this we thank Jordan Peterson and all those who contributed on this (ongoing) piece.

As always, should we become aware that Jordan Peterson has changed his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 

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