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Closed borders

January 21, 2018

On what moral principle do the humans living north of the Rio Grande River refuse to let those living to the south entry onto the land they inhabit? The ‘first to arrive’ principle? Historically aware northerners might seek to avoid this line of attack. But even if we pretended the northerners preceded the indigenous and the Mexicans themselves, would they then have a morally viable position?

Perhaps they could turn to John Locke, the father of Anglo-American individualism, and assert a ‘natural’ right to own property. What’s often overlooked in this argument, though, is that Locke inserted a ‘proviso’ which requires there remain “enough, and as good left in common for others”. If the proviso fails, then there is no Lockean right to property. Sadly for the northerners’ wish to morally enjoy their property, the proviso in fact fails. It fails because of the substantial and centuries old interference in the affairs of Latin America by the power elite of the United States. Via the power of money and finance, military invasion, bribery, assassination, coups, and so on, US actions across all of Latin America have assured that a tiny oligarchy rules at the expense of an impoverished majority. American policy, in cahoots with local elites, deny the people enough and as good in common.

The right to a closed border can be morally justified only if the United States ceases to support the systemic rule of oligarchy and re-directs its efforts to the great cause of eliminating poverty and inequality around the globe. At that point, however, the question becomes moot as there’d be no need for a closed border.

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