December 18th, 2008 - Open Knowledge
Dec. 18th, 2008
04:50 pm - The Nation Is Not A House
Let’s reflect on the rhetoric used by those who oppose greater freedom for people to move back and forth across political borders. Opponents of the freedom to move frequently analogize a nation to a house. “You lock your house, don’t you?” these anti-immigrationists ask—implying that what makes sense for a home makes equally good sense for a nation.
Analogies are useful for analyses, debate, and persuasion. But just as they can enlighten, analogies can also mislead. They must be used, and heard, always with care.
The analogy of a home to a nation is more misleading than helpful. Unlike a home, a nation—at least each nation whose citizens are free—is not a private domain; it does not belong to anyone in the way that a house belongs to its owner. Also unlike in a home, living space within a free country is allocated by market transactions rather than by the conscious, nonmarket decisions of the residents of a house. A person who enters a country and purchases a place to live displaces no one in the way that an intruder into a home would displace a resident from his bed and favorite chair. In addition, of course, every intruder into a home likely intends to inflict some harm on the household’s residents. In contrast, the vast majority of persons who enter a country intend no harm to anyone.
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