Can Democracy Work With Borders?

I don’t think so. I think that a democracy as envisioned in the Enlightenment cannot actually function with set borders.  In other words, in order to have a proper democracy as places like the U.S. like to pretend we have, we cannot have strong borders like we do currently.  This is because borders entail exclusion and the ideal of democracies like the U.S. is that no one is excluded and borders make it possible for people to be born into the country, which, if democracies are to actually work off of “social contract” theories that they tend to lean on now, every individual has to come to sign onto the contract on their own.

The first part is relatively simple, a border defines an area that is yours and an area that is mine.  That is the point of borders, if you do not agree try to create a border that does to rely on this fundamental separation.  Borders are exclusion.  Democracies in our world constantly want to promote “multi-culturalism,” “openness,” “diversity,” and all those other pretty sounding words that get thrown around a lot.  Barring the internal issues that exist in these countries (that’s a can of worms that I will not open, so just stay in International Relations please), borders fundamentally deny these pretty words that like to get thrown around in democracies.  Basically, having a border, means that there is a part of the Earth that is “mine” (the citizen’s) and part that is “yours” (the non-citizen of any sort).  Operating off of that assumption means that a person has to work to become a citizen, (citizenship tests) which causes problems since the basic assumption made when say, the U.S. Constitution was written, was that of social contract theory.  This theory is essentially that the individual signs onto the contract of a government, which is just fine and dandy, if the person can read the contract and understand it, go ahead and sign on all you want, requiring a person to take a test of random facts of the history of the country is not really useful in this way.

As a history note, us Euro-Americans are quite good at letting people sign contracts when they do not necessarily understand the contract and what it entails.  Why do we suddenly care about a person understanding the contract when they want to be a citizen? Anyway, just a reminder, the U.S. is far from perfect like some people seem to want to say.

The discussion above has gotten dangerously close to my second point so I will just go ahead into it here.  So we have this social contract theory and with well and strongly defined and defended borders makes this contract inherently exclusionary which is exactly against the ideals that people like to claim in the current world.  The next problem is that this sense of there being borders means that a person can be born into a contract, which is not necessarily a bad idea in theory I guess, but this being born into a situation leads to two problems.

1) laziness, being born into something means you probably do not feel the same impetus to work for it or care.  This does not apply to all people in all situations, it does seem that it applies for voting though, since an individual is just born into a democracy they do not really feel the need to participate to have citizenship in a democracy which weakens a democracy by their lack of participation.  So, if everyone, in order to actually gain citizenship had to participate (i.e. vote) those that actually want to be members (i.e. sign the contract and join-in) would go ahead and vote and choose to become a part of that society.

2) it allows a sense of “us” and “them” to form.  Being born in a certain place and gaining citizenship automatically allows one to have a sense of that area being theirs and that people who move in are outsiders and frankly, in North America, that is entirely false.  Essentially, when being born in a place equates to citizenship nation-states are created which have all sorts of problems of exclusionary practices.

This is admittedly, poorly argued at this point, but my point is that a democracy cannot function with borders because borders allow the creation of nation-states which means exclusionary practices and lax-ness on the part of the citizens that are born into the nation-state.  So, in order to get a democracy that truly works, the concept of a border has to be taken apart.  Luckily, these are just musings that I never have to worry about coming to fruition!

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