Russel Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” (1953), & Immigration Innovations

Kirk is a famed conservative historian and one of its revivalist intellectual leaders back in the day. He wrote on the history of conservatism over the past couple centuries in the US and Britain. I recently read this as a recommendation from a conservative friend so that I can learn about “true conservatism” from a learned source. I think half of Kirk’s arguments are poor, but I won’t get into that right now. Interestingly, one of the main tenets of “true conservatism”, and the most prominent theme throughout the book, is the principle that we should hold fast to old ways and institutions even if they don’t seem rational, and not adopt new ways (thus the name *conserv*ative).

Even though I disagree with Kirk, I’d like to point out a contradiction for people who call themselves conservatives. Most of our immigration restriction laws were passed in the early 20th century during the Progressive Era (an era where everyone believed govt should control everything “for the greater good”). Before that, immigration was relatively free and open, usually. So, these restrictions are relatively new innovations, not old fashion tradition. Accordingly, today’s conservatives aren’t “real” conservatives, but fake ones, at least on the topic of immigration. Interestingly, and although Kirk wasn’t referring to immigration specifically when he wrote this, Kirk even says that “true” conservatism mostly died in the early 20th century. I now see that it’s not a coincidence that this is the exact same time that the US starts ramping up its immigration restrictions. So, my recommendation to conservatives is to go back to our older traditions of more open borders and start acting like a “true conservative” in the immigration department.

On a separate but related note, I wonder if modern conservatives believe that the US began in the early 20th century instead of 1776 (or 1789). After all, they say that “a nation that allows easy immigration is a nation without borders”, and “a nation without borders is no nation at all”, so therefore conservatives must think that the US didn’t even exist between 1776 and the early 20th century when we had more open borders.

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