Mankind, for the most part, is selectively gregarious, attracted to groups that range in size from the family to the nation. Mankind is less gregarious beyond the limit of the nation state, preferring rivalry to union at those outer-fringes of association. Migration patterns clearly reflect such preferences. Individuals and families move frequently between local communities, counties, provinces and states; but much less frequently and more cautiously across national borders. Caution at the border, indeed, is a prudential instinct, because the cost of exit, at that margin, is discrete and high.
I can speak with a degree of authority on this issue because I exercised the exit option on December 27, 1983 when I migrated from England to the United States, my family following me some few months later, once I had established a small footprint in the New World. I remember well how nervous and uncertain we were in contemplating that awesome option, how carefully we mapped out the detailed pros and cons, yet how we ignored the most problematic (family-related, culture-related) costs of walking out on our country and our kind.
For a nation is more than a congregation of individuals living in proximity each with the other. A nation is a history, a culture, a system of norms and traditions, of laws and protections, that have evolved over unfolding centuries. Surely some of those evolving characteristics grate upon our psyches; how could they not in a community composed of individuals with widely varying tastes and preferences, differing lifetime experiences and divergent economic prospects.
Yet, within a nation, until a breaking point is reached, evolution itself induces toleration. Like the water that we drink, water that not infrequently brings discomfort to the stomach of the stranger, but not to ourselves, our minds and bodies become attuned to our environment. We tolerate what we do not enjoy as a justifiable price of citizenship. We avoid what we cannot tolerate, until there is no haven left in which to hide. At that point only do we confront the exit option.
A significant number of talented Americans currently are reviewing that exit option as progressive socialism stalks the land, most especially now that it has seized control, possibly irreversibly, over the instruments of power. As always, in such circumstances, the best are the first to leave; for they have the most attractive options among which to choose. Those nations that value individual freedom most highly, that support property rights most vigorously, that limit their governments most effectively in order to allow laissez-faire capitalism to thrive, are beacons beckoning those who are brave, those who are supremely talented, those who are successful, and those that value freedom highly, to join them in their great journey.
Americans know this, deep down in their souls, because the United States was such a beacon until its citizens recently and carelessly have extinguished the flame of their exceptionalism, much as the citizens of Great Britain had rejected their exceptional heritage during the dark, tragic, socialist years that followed triumph in the war to defend Western civilization. The United States increasingly is the land of those who wish to be unfree, the home of individuals who lack the bravery to stand nobly on their own two feet, but rather would lean upon the crutch provided by a paternalistic welfare state.
The very nature of the club has changed. The United States is now increasingly a magnet, not for the ambitious and the talented, the highly educated and economically successful, but for the uneducated, and unskilled, the unambitious and economically unsuccessful immigrant attracted by the housing, welfare and health subsidies increasingly provided by federal state and local government. One can see this most clearly by attending any new citizenship ceremony. Democratic Party activists are always there, strategically placed to welcome the new citizens into Democratic Party membership and to enroll them into progressive socialist policy programs. There are few impulses of entrepreneuship evident in that room. Those ceremonies are not, at least in my experience, reflective in any real sense of the Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave.
As the nature of the club adjusts away from self-reliance and toward reliance on government, exit as well as entry is affected. As the average quality of the human capital stock is eroded at one end by new entry, so it is eroded at the other by new exit. While those of us who will not confront the exit option fight the eroding quality of the club, through voice and through example, others predictably choose to leave. In tomorrow’s column, I shall address some of the most important costs of outward migration for citizens of the United States who currently are reviewing such an awesome option.
Hat Tip to Brian Baugus