Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sports boss slams borders

Liberalism is so pervasive an orthodoxy that it even influences the mindset of sports administrators.

Andrew Demetriou is the head of the Australian Football League. In making the main speech at an Australia Day luncheon this week, he attacked the Howard Government for being too hardline on illegal immigrants.

According to Mr Demetriou Australia has become a "conservative country ... in recent years" in its attitude to newcomers. Mr Demetriou contrasted the more "wary" attitude to newcomers today to his Cypriot parents' reception in Australia in 1951. Back then people "were allowed to be whatever they wanted to be, without prejudice."

For Mr Demetriou, restoring this attitude means accepting illegal immigrants. "I want our boundaries to be open and our welcome without prejudice," he said.

At least Mr Demetriou has articulated the liberal thought process nicely for us. The starting point for liberals is the idea that we should be self-created by our own will and reason. This is the idea being expressed by Mr Demetriou when claiming that his parents "were allowed to be whatever they wanted to be". They could, he is claiming, follow their own will in creating who they were to be.

Logically, being able to be whatever we want to includes being able to choose which country we belong to. By choosing this for ourselves, an important part of our identity becomes (in theory anyway) self-determined. However, to be able to choose which country we belong to requires that we have a world with open borders.

So Mr Demetriou is being consistent in his speech in following through with his liberal principles.

Of course, conservatives don't accept the same starting point as liberals. We don't believe that a freedom to be self-created is the fundamental basis of political morality.

This means that conservatives are at liberty to uphold traditional, ethnic forms of communal identity. We consider the importance of such traditions to outweigh the desire to create a "self-authored" individual. It doesn't matter so much to us that we don't get to choose for ourselves our own particular ethnic tradition, as "getting to choose" is not the key in determining what we think is right, or conducive to individual well-being, or even conducive to individual freedom.

Upholding a traditional national identity requires controlled borders, not open ones. It means also that our commitment to helping others must be to aid them primarily within their own cultures and countries, rather than to encourage large-scale population transfers.

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