MRZ

The subconscious effects of living in an irrational society

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Being surrounded by a plethora of religions (or materialism) here in India, most people being either very staunch in their beliefs or not willing to deviate from the norm, I realized today how the shadow of religion (or materialism) looms over almost every *social* (as against professional or business) interaction I have with the people here.

By [a] the things they say (e.g. about duty, sacrifice and the good of all, or how all morality is pointless), the things they avoid like the plague talking about (e.g. sex, or sacredness), [c] the things they react positively to (e.g. images of "holy" men/women, or smutty sex), [d] the things they detest (e.g. businessmen/women, or those who want to think), if you're not paying attention, they'll pull you into their world where religion get the utmost deference (or nothing does) and anything or anyone that tries to stand up to it is beaten down (sometimes, literally). My life is not just made worse by *actual* interactions with irrational people but also by the ripples they set off by their effect on the people and objects around them.

I sometimes feel hopelessly stranded and, I'm not proud to say, quite vengeful about many things like, for example, the general lack of courtesy (which seems like something so small to them and is yet so important) deriving from their general lack of respect for other people. My wife and I almost hugged a guy in a store (a foreigner of course ;)) who told off a young Indian boy trying to butt in ahead of him in line at a departmental store.

Would other people on this forum like to volunteer their experiences living in a society like this (or close), how it affected them, how they protected themselves from it's effects (physically and mentally) and managed to remain happy?

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The way I look at it is to try and build my own "soap bubble", that I fill with only the things I value and unwanted elements are denied access.

Sure, there are things that make it harder than it should be. Sometimes it even gets to me, but at the end of the day... life is to precious to waste on bitterness against other people and the society I live in. There are infinitely more important things like work, art, food, all those amazing people i've met, fast cars, reading a book, chokolate... um, you get the idea, I hope. In the ways that truly matter I still create the world that I live in, so the things that I don't like are my own responsibility(not suggesting I can change society by my own, but I can choose how to deal with it).

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To the extent that the culture isn't actively destroying your rights and your life, psychologically speaking you live in the world you choose. The selective focus of your mind is so powerful that one can be living in paradise but feel as if it's hell, and vice versa.

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Would other people on this forum like to volunteer their experiences living in a society like this (or close), how it affected them, how they protected themselves from it's effects (physically and mentally) and managed to remain happy?

I think the best answer is the one Ayn Rand gave in her essay "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?" which you will find in The Virtue of Selfishness.

Her answer to the question was "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment" and understanding why that answers the question is the key.

If you judge yourself and others correctly, you will choose better friends. associates, and business relationships. You will know who you can trust and who you should be wary of. Given that information, you can build a sub-culture of life-enhancing, value-promoting, mutually-supportive friends and associates for yourself and a lead a rational, productive life even if you are surrounded by irrationality.

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Boy, MRZ - I can *really* empathize with you! There are *so* many things I could say on this subject (and some of them Betsy would not permit to be posted here, you can ask me in a privat email what those things are, if you are curious).

The thing is that I am Swedish. So I live in a *really* rotten culture.

The biggest problem here in Sweden is not religion. Instead it is *egalitarianism*. Ayn Rand was so right when she characterized Sweden as being the prime exemplar of a society saturated with "hatred of the good for being the good". I have met reams of individual people here in Sweden who exhibit this disgusting character trait. I have been a factory worker here in Sweden for roughly 30 years (although right now I am in a job training program instead of in a regular job). And I have met many dozens, at least, of Swedish industrial workers (socialists of course) who would whine about how "Life is unfair. Those business leaders and CEOs do not deserve their outrageous wages!". When I then have pointed out to them that most businessmen and CEOs work up to 60- or 70-hour work weeks, and that their work *is* difficult, because they carry out highly qualified *intellectual* work, the envious mediocrities will come back with a rationalization - "Yeah, well I was not lucky enough to get an equally good, private education as they did." When I then reply that there are reams of examples (for instance Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and our own Swedish tycoon Ingvar Kamprad) who became enormously wealthy and successful without having much of an education, the envious mediocrity will typically just stop talking to me.

And in my experience, a clear majority of my Swedish workmates have emphatically advocated that the "well-off" should be made to pay *still* higher taxes than they already do,wheneve the subject of taxes came up in the lunchroom. And they knew fully well that raising the taxes on the relatively few "well-off" (by which my envious workmates mean the really wealthy, and not the middle class, to which they themselves belong) will not have improved their own welfare to any extent which they would have been able to notice. They just wanted the wealthy´s welfare to be destroyed, they did not want their own welfare to be impoved.

You might be wondering how it could come to pass that a Swedish factory worker, such as myself, came to have these, for Sweden, "exotic" views about things having to do with justice? Well, although I was born in Sweden, to Swedish parents, I had the fantastic advantage in life of getting to grow up in the most rational, pro-freedom culture in the world at the time - the USA of the 1960s. When I was just five years old my family moved to America. Ayn Rand remarked once that "[she] was an American who happened to be born in Russia." Well, I am an American who happened to be born in Sweden. Still today, I feel more "American" than "Swedish".

I do not have time to write more just now, because my teacher here at the job training program is telling me that the coffee break is over, and that I must not use the computer for private purposes any more right now. So I will write more on this subject later today.

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Now it is later in the day, and I am "back in action". I will take up where I left off.

In 1970, after living for eleven years in the relatively healthy culture which was America, my parents decided to move me back to Sweden. I was abruptly taken from the nourishing culture of America, and suddenly immersed in the cesspool which is modern Sweden. It was a shock like being thrown into a vat full of ice cold water. When I began living from day to day in Sweden, I sensed that there was some big, monstrous evil around me. I could not identify it in words at the time, because I had not yet discovered Objectivism, and so I did not have the concept of "hatred of the good for being the good". But I am absolutely certain today that it *was* that "radical evil" which caused me so much emotional distress. In fact, the emotional distress which came to fill me all my waking hours contributed, probably more than any other single factor, to my going literally insane. I actually became acutely psychotic roughly two years after returning to Sweden. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spent roughly a total of one and a half years in mental hospitals.

So I know what it is like, Red, to live in a culture which is alien to the premises and the psychology of an Objectivist! My advice in regard to how to live with the radical evil which, I take it, surrounds you in India just as it does me here in Sweden, is to remember the principle that all those haters of the good for being the good, are mere "ballast". They are not the drivers of history, and ultimately, they will not determine the fate of your society and the course of your own life.

A personal note: I hold the view that three, and just three, *really* good things have happened to me in my life. The first was that my parents moved with me to the USA in 1959, when I was five years old. The second really good thing which happened to me was that I discovered Objectivism in 1979, when I was 25 years old. The third really good thing which happened to me was that I met that wonderful woman, Thi, who is now my wife, in the spring of 2009, when I was all of 55 years old.

I do not think that I would have been able to rebuild my life after my bout with psychosis, if it had not been for Objectivism. So I think, Red, that Objectivism can save your happiness for you no matter how bad your situation is.

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Her answer to the question was "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment" and understanding why that answers the question is the key.

Internally or out loud? It would not be wise for me to speak my views here in Sweden. I do pronounce moral judgement all time time but only to myself. Making life as good as possible, staying productive, dealing with things and ultimately moving away from Sweden (permanently) is the way to go as a Swede.

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Her answer to the question was "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment" and understanding why that answers the question is the key.

Internally or out loud? It would not be wise for me to speak my views here in Sweden. I do pronounce moral judgement all time time but only to myself. Making life as good as possible, staying productive, dealing with things and ultimately moving away from Sweden (permanently) is the way to go as a Swede.

I agree with you. Up to a certain point one can pass moral judgement and speak openly, but even Ayn Rand had to watch who she spoke to while in Russia. I would also offer that if we, here in America, do not want to end up like those in Sweden and most of Europe that we should be speaking up now. Europeans started on their statist path about 40 years before Americans, so all we need to do is look there if we want to see where we will be if we do not pass moral judgement and speak up.

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Yes, and I don't mean to say that Sweden's government would go North Korea on my rear, were I to openly call it out on its Marxism (not that there aren't things one really shouldn't mention). But I can think of nothing but trouble, annoyance and grief resulting from talking to local people from an Objectivist perspective. I've tried and it's no good.

I don't know how many Swedish Objectivists there are, but I personally know of 10 in existence, none of them women. Never met one IRL. And if they aren't Objectivist, they're Marxist/Pragmatist/Libertarian etc.

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Her answer to the question was "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment" and understanding why that answers the question is the key.

Internally or out loud?

The policy of always pronouncing moral judgment does not mean that one must regard oneself as a missionary charged with the responsibility of "saving everyone's soul"—nor that one must give unsolicited moral appraisals to all those one meets. It means: (a) that one must know clearly, in full, verbally identified form, one's own moral evaluation of every person, issue and event with which one deals, and act accordingly; (b ) that one must make one's moral evaluation known to others, when it is rationally appropriate to do so.

This last means that one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil. When one deals with irrational persons, where argument is futile, a mere "I don't agree with you" is sufficient to negate any implication of moral sanction. When one deals with better people, a full statement of one's views may be morally required. But in no case and in no situation may one permit one's own values to be attacked or denounced, and keep silent.

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I agree with the above by Miss Rand. I never fail to speak my views out when such debates occur. Although my views are diametrically opposed to some of my colleagues (particularly the soft withdrawn geeky genius types that tend to gravitate towards socialism out of "compassion") I get on very well with them by simply being very honest, clear, and paying attention to what they are saying (i.e. respecting the value they bring to me - and all of them do, somewhere). This comes through and I can guarantee people will always react to that positively.

Similarly, in the presence of people that almost immediately make me extremely depressed, in particular UN workers and government people (at least those who view government as the centre of the world), I simply do not speak out about anything and withdraw to find more interesting people. It has been my experience that no UN people are ever interesting, with the exception of a couple of guys I knew who worked on the front line in conflict (one of them had seen a colleague get blown up a few feet from him when a shell vaporised his office).

But I still see many people here in the EUSSR as fundamentally good and simply misguided due to never having been exposed to the right ideas, just as I was when I started university, fervently defending the French principles of big state, social welfare and high taxes on the rich, as well as environment and animal welfare before human. It takes as little as one logical, friendly, structured conversation with such people to change their life for the better, and in doing so you will have gained a friend. I recommend it.

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To the extent that the culture isn't actively destroying your rights and your life

75% income taxes, and 95% of attractive women being passionate socialists, is pretty bad.

30% and 90% is a bit better, but I would prefer a green card.

I did enjoy the other day reading that a petition to forbid the killing of foxes in the region had less signatures than there were foxes being shot in a year.

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Yes, and I don't mean to say that Sweden's government would go North Korea on my rear, were I to openly call it out on its Marxism (not that there aren't things one really shouldn't mention). But I can think of nothing but trouble, annoyance and grief resulting from talking to local people from an Objectivist perspective. I've tried and it's no good.

I don't know how many Swedish Objectivists there are, but I personally know of 10 in existence, none of them women. Never met one IRL. And if they aren't Objectivist, they're Marxist/Pragmatist/Libertarian etc.

I am a Swedish Objectivist, L-C. If you live in the Stockholm area, maybe you and I could meet for a cup of coffee some evening? I am always interested in getting to meet fellow Objectivists in real life.

By the way, my estimate is that there are *at least* roughly 50 serious students of Objectivism in Sweden nowadays. I base that estimate on the size of the mailing lists which a Swedish Objectivist magazine and a Scandinavian Objectivist book service had back in the 1990s. I was involved in those two Objectivist projects, since I am an *active* Objectivist (I am a "proseletyzer", so to speak).

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Her answer to the question was "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment" and understanding why that answers the question is the key.

Internally or out loud? It would not be wise for me to speak my views here in Sweden. I do pronounce moral judgement all time time but only to myself. Making life as good as possible, staying productive, dealing with things and ultimately moving away from Sweden (permanently) is the way to go as a Swede.

I agree with you. Up to a certain point one can pass moral judgement and speak openly, but even Ayn Rand had to watch who she spoke to while in Russia. I would also offer that if we, here in America, do not want to end up like those in Sweden and most of Europe that we should be speaking up now. Europeans started on their statist path about 40 years before Americans, so all we need to do is look there if we want to see where we will be if we do not pass moral judgement and speak up.

Personally, I just cannot stand remaining silent when I see bad things around me here in Sweden. I feel a sort of "need" to speak out. It is like a compulsion. And in my experience, it is *not* dangerous to speak out. Sure, Sweden is bad, but Sweden is by no means a dictatorship. Yet that it. If too many people fear to speak out, then Sweden may very well eventually become a dictatorship.

I grew up in America. So I know how much is possible in this wonderful reality which we live in. And I just cannot permit myself to "let it go".

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Being surrounded by a plethora of religions (or materialism) here in India, most people being either very staunch in their beliefs or not willing to deviate from the norm, I realized today how the shadow of religion (or materialism) looms over almost every *social* (as against professional or business) interaction I have with the people here.

By [a] the things they say (e.g. about duty, sacrifice and the good of all, or how all morality is pointless), the things they avoid like the plague talking about (e.g. sex, or sacredness), [c] the things they react positively to (e.g. images of "holy" men/women, or smutty sex), [d] the things they detest (e.g. businessmen/women, or those who want to think), if you're not paying attention, they'll pull you into their world where religion get the utmost deference (or nothing does) and anything or anyone that tries to stand up to it is beaten down (sometimes, literally). My life is not just made worse by *actual* interactions with irrational people but also by the ripples they set off by their effect on the people and objects around them.

I sometimes feel hopelessly stranded and, I'm not proud to say, quite vengeful about many things like, for example, the general lack of courtesy (which seems like something so small to them and is yet so important) deriving from their general lack of respect for other people. My wife and I almost hugged a guy in a store (a foreigner of course ;)) who told off a young Indian boy trying to butt in ahead of him in line at a departmental store.

Would other people on this forum like to volunteer their experiences living in a society like this (or close), how it affected them, how they protected themselves from it's effects (physically and mentally) and managed to remain happy?

I haven't lived in a place like you describe, so I can't speak from firsthand experience. However, related to the title of your thread, I suspect that the primary subconscious effect of living in such a place is an ongoing sense of threat. The sense would be "quieter" or more acute depending on a given situation (i.e., relatively quiet background noise when going about routine activities, but more acute or "loud" when seeing someone harmed for voicing objections).

A sense of threat leads to fear, anger, or a mix of both. From that point, one's personal psychology takes over. For instance, if one tends to feel fear, then he may have scenarios of persecution and/or harm run through his mind, which might affect his actions or overall demeanor. If, on the other hand, he feels anger, then scenarios of vengence could come to mind, also affecting his behavior. And so forth.

The good news is that although the subconscious acts automatically, one can gain a fairly significant amount of control over it. You can become more consciously aware of what happens subconsciously; give your subconscious orders to pay attention to or ignore things around you; alter irrational thoughts, etc. This takes time and practice, and it will not completely stop something negative coming up from the subconscious. But that needn't necessarily be the goal. It's often appropriate to feel anger or fear, and then to act appropriately given reality.

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It's often appropriate to feel anger or fear, and then to act appropriately given reality.

I certainly think that it is appropriate to feel anger at the state of the Swedish culture, and to act to change it.

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I certainly think that it is appropriate to feel anger at the state of the Swedish culture, and to act to change it.

This is where I disagree. For the sake of one's own success, it is more productive to move abroad. I believe the US is where the fight is, not Europe and especially not Sweden.

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I certainly think that it is appropriate to feel anger at the state of the Swedish culture, and to act to change it.

This is where I disagree. For the sake of one's own success, it is more productive to move abroad. I believe the US is where the fight is, not Europe and especially not Sweden.

Well, I hold the same view that Winston Churchill held. We should fight evil *whereever* we are (You know what I am referring to? When defeatists - and I am not trying to imply that *you* are a defeatist - told him shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War that it looked as though the Nazis might succeed at invading Great Britain, Churchill replied defiantly that in that case the British would fight the Nazis from places like Canada and the USA. I am sort of like a bulldog, just like Churchill. I will fight no matter what circumstances I find myself in.). Because we should value our lives no matter where we are living.

And at any rate, moving to the USA and fighting for Objectivism there, is an option which is closed to me. My former employer here in Skarpnack in Sweden, closed down the factory at the end of last year, and moved the operations to its two factories in Fairport, a suburb of Rochester in New York, and in Belfast in North Ireland. They offered me the opportunity to move to Rochester and work for them there, since they valued my work skills and they knew that I was a good worker. And my wife, Thi, said she was definitely willing to move with me. But the American government, in its infinite wisdom, decided that my work skills were not valuable *enough* for me to be permitted to immigrate to the, obviously overcrowded, USA. After all, free competition is a great thing - just not on the labor market, eh? So I did not get a Green Card and I had to stay in Sweden. I am still unemployed right now, although I am right now in a government job training program (my work skills were valuable to my former employer, but they are highly specialized and concern "old-fashioned" technology, so not many other employers here in Sweden have a need for the kind of work which I am capable of).

Immigration controls suck, don´t they?

Another way in which my own personal life has been harmed by immigration controls is that my own wife, Thi, came close to being sent back to her home country, Vietnam, just a week after we were married. The Swedish Immigration Authority (I.A.) argued to the county court which handled my wife´s case, that it was *possible* that our marriage was a "fake" one, merely intended to enable Thi to stay in Sweden. Even though they had no specific evidence for it, Thi *might* have paid me money "under the table" in order to get me to help her be able to stay in Sweden! And, apparently, it was my and Thi´s responsibility to prove, to the I.A.´s satisfaction, that our marriage was *not* in fact a fake! What should Thi and I have done? Should we have mounted video cameras in our bedroom, made recordings of our nights together and then send the tapes to the I.A.?

So I say that all countries should institute free immigration! Free immigration is a political reform which I think that you Objectivists over there in the states should fight for. Just as I am fighting for free immigration here in Sweden!

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I'm sorry to have disappeared for a few days ;) My wife had been in severe pain for quite a while and had to have her gallbladder taken out last week. I've been busy with that and with my mom, who's here to help us out.

Thank you for all your replies. I have a few more things to add and will be replying again today or tomorrow.

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This is where I disagree. For the sake of one's own success, it is more productive to move abroad. I believe the US is where the fight is, not Europe and especially not Sweden.

Well, I hold the same view that Winston Churchill held. We should fight evil *whereever* we are (You know what I am referring to? When defeatists - and I am not trying to imply that *you* are a defeatist - told him shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War that it looked as though the Nazis might succeed at invading Great Britain, Churchill replied defiantly that in that case the British would fight the Nazis from places like Canada and the USA. I am sort of like a bulldog, just like Churchill. I will fight no matter what circumstances I find myself in.). Because we should value our lives no matter where we are living.

But resources are limited. The will to fight is not the same as the ability to win, and efficiency is wasted if applied to the wrong problem. I will not live for the centuries it might take for Europe to get better. I may live to 80 - or 40 for that matter - and I want to own a house, a shotgun, a car, earn more money than is possible in Sweden, have the right to self defense and freedom of speech, and speak English instead of Swedish in my daily life, and I want those things as soon as possible.

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This is where I disagree. For the sake of one's own success, it is more productive to move abroad. I believe the US is where the fight is, not Europe and especially not Sweden.

Well, I hold the same view that Winston Churchill held. We should fight evil *whereever* we are (You know what I am referring to? When defeatists - and I am not trying to imply that *you* are a defeatist - told him shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War that it looked as though the Nazis might succeed at invading Great Britain, Churchill replied defiantly that in that case the British would fight the Nazis from places like Canada and the USA. I am sort of like a bulldog, just like Churchill. I will fight no matter what circumstances I find myself in.). Because we should value our lives no matter where we are living.

But resources are limited. The will to fight is not the same as the ability to win, and efficiency is wasted if applied to the wrong problem. I will not live for the centuries it might take for Europe to get better. I may live to 80 - or 40 for that matter - and I want to own a house, a shotgun, a car, earn more money than is possible in Sweden, have the right to self defense and freedom of speech, and speak English instead of Swedish in my daily life, and I want those things as soon as possible.

Well, I have a certain kind of psychology. I grew up in America during the 1960s. When I look back on my childhood, I feel that during my first four years in American suburbia, from 1959 to 1963, I felt as though I was living in a sunlit universe. After the age of nine, the environment which I lived in became less "Aristotelian", and more "Kantian". And then I eventually became so unhappy that I tried to commit suicide twice, and went literally insane. But since I once knew that sunlit universe, in my early childhood, I know what is possible in life. Life *can* be so wonderful, of only people would choose to think and would acquire the right ideas. And since I know just how wonderful life can be - I will not "let it go", to use Ayn Rand´s words. I have been working for 30 years to inject Objectivism into the Swedish culture. Because I want to remake the world, or at least Sweden, in the image of that sunlit universe which I knew as a child. I will not settle for less. And it does not matter that I probably won´t live to see the sunlit universe again myself. As Victor Hugo said - "He who fights for the future, lives in it today." I feel derive an immense satisfaction from my intellectual activism. It is almost, in a sense, and end in itself (not literally, of course, but it feels that way).

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Free immigration is a political reform which I think that you Objectivists over there in the states should fight for. Just as I am fighting for free immigration here in Sweden!

I keep trying to engage in bipartisan compromise with the Left by saying that the Right is willing to lift immigration controls the minute the Left demonstrates willingness to dismantle the welfare state, but for some reason they reject this initiative. Can't imagine why.

More seriously, I think pretty much everyone here is advocating for liberal immigration. Myself included, though I do make lifting the welfare state a precondition. As Milton Friedman pointed out, you cannot have a liberal immigration policy and a welfare state at the same time, and I think the current state of Europe proves Friedman's point rather eloquently.

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More seriously, I think pretty much everyone here is advocating for liberal immigration.

I disagree that "everyone here" is doing this.

Myself included, though I do make lifting the welfare state a precondition. As Milton Friedman pointed out, you cannot have a liberal immigration policy and a welfare state at the same time, and I think the current state of Europe proves Friedman's point rather eloquently.

What, in your opinion, is the precise connection between the welfare state and liberal immigration policy?

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More seriously, I think pretty much everyone here is advocating for liberal immigration.

I disagree that "everyone here" is doing this.

Myself included, though I do make lifting the welfare state a precondition. As Milton Friedman pointed out, you cannot have a liberal immigration policy and a welfare state at the same time, and I think the current state of Europe proves Friedman's point rather eloquently.

What, in your opinion, is the precise connection between the welfare state and liberal immigration policy?

A country without a welfare state and open borders will be much better off than one with a generous welfare state and open borders. It's about attracting the right kind of immigrants.

People don't emigrate to the US to collect cheques. At least not from the government ;)

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