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Donald Trump vs. Immanuel Kant

Hysteria: it’s contagious and fungible. Its vessels enjoy the process: the product is secondary.  The tsunami of hysteria that greeted Donald Trump’s decision to enact a temporary pause on immigration from seven countries identified by the Obama administration as crucibles of terrorism has been a marvel to behold. That hysteria is also just about to be transferred, part of it, anyway, to Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s ostentatiously qualified nominee for the Supreme Court. The ink on the pre-printed signs announcing that this brilliant jurist is a messenger from hell hadn’t dried before protestors (what Tucker Carlson called “a great pulsating blob of humanity”) hit the streets. My favorite sign had “STOP” printed with a large blank space below to be filled in with the name of whatever miscreant Trump dared to nominate. Democrats put the country on notice that they would oppose and “fight tooth and nail” (Chuck Schumer), “by any means necessary,” anyone Trump nominated. So we’ll have that entertainment to look forward to.

But while the Left hopes — vainly, I suspect — for a reenactment of the ritual immolation of Robert Bork, the circus surrounding Trump’s efforts to secure the nation’s borders continues. Granted, Trump’s executive order should have been crafted with greater finesse, making exceptions, for example, for individuals with green cards. (That has since been rectified.)  But Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, was quite right to say that the administration had no need to apologize for endeavoring to keep America safe. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump promised to enforce America’s immigration laws, to end so-called “sanctuary cities,” which advertise themselves as safe havens for illegal aliens, and to sharpen vetting procedures for people wishing to immigrate to America from countries known as sponsors of terrorism.

Many people have weighed in to endorse the legality of Trump’s executive order on immigration.  As usual, Andrew McCarthy’s commentary — here, for example, and here — is among the best-informed and clearly argued.

Behind all of the Sturm und Drang, however, we can glimpse two very different concepts of the nation state and world order. One view sees the world as a collection of independent sovereign countries that, although interacting with one another, regard the care, safety, and prosperity of their own citizens as their first obligation.  This is the traditional view of the nation state. It is also Donald Trump’s view.

The alternative view regards the nation state with suspicion as an atavistic form of political and social organization. The nation state might still be a practical necessity, but it is a regrettable necessity inasmuch as it retards mankind’s emancipation from the parochial bonds of place and local allegiance. Ideally, according to this view, we are citizens of the world, not particular countries, and our fundamental obligation is to all mankind. This is the progressive view. It has many progenitors and antecedents, none more influential than “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,” a brief essay that Immanuel Kant published in 1795 when he was 71.