Posted on April 2, 2020

We Are All Restrictionists Now

Rich Lowry, Politico, April 1, 2020

When President Donald Trump announced a restriction on travel from Europe in a mid-March Oval Office address, European Union officials erupted in outrage.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a joint statement with the president of the European Council thundering, “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

Just a few days later, von der Leyen was advancing her own proposal to ban nonessential travel into the EU. The initative noted that “globalization and international movements of people create conditions which facilitate the spread of virus across the borders.”

We are all restrictionists now. In the coronavirus crisis, everyone realizes the importance of borders, even the people who not long ago were ideologically hostile toward them and tsk-tsked the allegedly primitive nationalists who obsessed over them.

Even the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is now a kind of restrictionist, at least when it comes to travelers coming to her state from New York.

Borders mark off the sovereign territory of one people from another. They are a means — if they can be enforced and defended — for a sovereign state to protect its people from invaders and unwelcome immigrants and goods. They are a tool almost every nation has used to try to keep the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in its population, and try to keep it from spreading further.

The lyrics of the treacly John Lennon classic “Imagine” — recently performed by celebrities organized by actress Gal Gadot as a balm in this time of distress — have never been so absurdly inapt. If there were really no countries and the world were as one, we’d be even more vulnerable to whatever threat arises across the globe in a city in central China.


In a crisis, no one says, “Please, ship our medical gear that we need here at home overseas—we are citizens of the world too broad-minded to care about the interests of our own people over the interests of anyone else.”

And no government has acted this way, whether right, left or center; whether led by cosmopolitans or nationalists; whether in Asia, Europe, or North America. Everyone realizes their first obligation is to their own, and there’s nothing wrong with that.