Regarding an old post by Will Wilkinson on Canadian Freedom:
But that doesn’t begin to mean that we live up to our reputation for the kind of liberty classical liberals tend to care about. My sense is that some American libertarians have a vague sense that if Canada really was more free, then they should want to move there. But they emphatically don’t want to move to Canada. My diagnosis is that many libertarians prefer to live in a place where it easy to find others who share their individualistic and libertarian values over living in a place where they would actually be more free, but would feel more culturally alienated.
When I first read this, my initial reaction was, “Yeah, that sounds kind of like me.” But the more I think about it — or perhaps maybe the more I’ve grown up — it doesn’t.
Now, full disclosure: this is me writing completely off-the-cuff and I’m operating largely on generalities I’m familiar with, but I’m putting it down anyways as food for thought. Perhaps comments will help clarify things. That said, all I can think of is Julian Sanchez’s epistemic closure:
Contemplate how vertigo-inducing this must be. You’ve got a local community where a certain set of cultural norms is so dominant that it’s just seen as obvious and natural that a lesbian wouldn’t have an equal right to participate in prom—to the point where the overt hostility isn’t really directed at Constance’s sexuality so much as her bewildering insistence on messing with the way everyone knows things are supposed to be. They’re not attuned to the injustice because it seems like almost a fact of nature. Except they’re now flooded with undeniable evidence that a hell of a lot of people don’t see things that way, and even hold their community in contempt for seeing things that way. There have been thousands of “outside” posts in a handful of days, with more every minute. (Think of the small-town high school quarterback getting to college and realizing, to his astonishment, that everyone thinks the “art fags” he used to slag on are the cool ones. Except without even leaving the small town.)
Fulton is an extreme case, but I think there are probably a lot of conservative communities that feel a lower-grade version of this all the time. So here’s a hypothesis: Epistemic closure is (in part) an attempt to compensate for the collapse of geographic closure. A function no longer effectively served by geographic segregation—because the digital equivalents of your local hangout are open to invasion by the hordes from New York and London—is being passed to media segregation, bolstered by the sudden demand that what was once tacit and given be explicitly defended.
I think, on the whole, the United States trends more conservative. I also think that as a libertarian — more importantly, a young libertarian — I trend far more liberal. It is probably also safe to say that Canada, on the whole, is a fairly liberal nation both politically and socially. Thus, while I might not be completely in step with some of its policies, and while it lacks the historical reverence of ideals such as individual sovereignty, I believe it would be more tolerant of my positions (in that I would not be made incredibly uncomfortable, at the least, because of any difference of opinion) than the myriad of places I could end up in the United States.
Now, while the whole of the United States cannot be represented by Mississippi anymore than Canada by Ontario or Quebec, I think odds are you’re more likely to experience this epistemic closure in America rather than Canada. Given that populations are more prone to actively protect their sensibilities (especially when suddenly opened to outsiders) than actively promote ideals that have some common historical reverence, Canada wins the battle against cultural alienation. Frankly I’d feel more actively culturally alienated in an incredibly closed, conservative area even if we could agree that Liberty is an awesome thing and George Washington was a cool guy (whereas maybe my Canadian friends don’t give a lick about traditional deference to Lockean contract theory but we can agree that homosexuals should have the right to enter a marital contract as much as the next person.) The positions people in an area actively defend count as much in culture as anything, no?
On top of the fact that Canada and many other countries actually are more free, the idea of “planting flags” in other nations appeals to me greatly. Government is, unfortunately, inherently territorial. If you truly wish not to be entirely beholden to a single, concentrated authority, then perhaps, given globalization and growing international connections, making one’s citizenship more fluid is very advantageous.